Why I’m leaving WhatsApp

TLDR: privacy. I’m on Signal now.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Facebook for many years. I still have an account but rarely log in. It sometimes sends me emails and occasionally I open up a private browser window to take a look. I don’t want them following me around the Internet (their tracking tags are pervasive).

WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014 but any personal data shared with the service could be kept separately. Now that’s changing.

WhatsApp has long prided itself on its commitment to security and privacy, with encrypted conversations and other important technologies integrated into the app.

But the new announcement has sparked fears of the exact opposite: that people’s information is not being kept secret but instead shared with Facebook.

WhatsApp new privacy terms: What do new rules really mean for you? | The Independent

I’m lucky to live in the UK which (despite Brexit) still provides strong privacy protections based on the GDPR:

“There are no changes to WhatsApp’s data sharing practices in the European region (including UK) arising from the updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy,” a spokesperson said.

…and indeed WhatsApp do advertise different terms for European users. Despite this I’m still worried. I used to trust WhatsApp; now I don’t. Some sources also suggest that UK data will begin to fall under WhatsApp’s US jurisdiction in the future (despite GDPR being part of UK law):

I don’t know how true that is, but still think it’s time to move. From now on I’ll be on Signal, and am pleased that many others are making the same choice:


I should make it clear that the content of WhatsApp messages remains confidential (and encrypted). The following data are still up for grabs:

  • [Other peoples’] phone numbers in your mobile address book, including those of both the users of our Services and your other contacts. You confirm you are authorized to provide us such numbers. [emphasis mine]
  • a favorites lists of your contacts
  • groups and broadcast lists
  • how you use our services, how you interact with others using our Services, and the like
  • whether you are online, when you last used our Services

These data are still important! If you don’t believe this then take a look at Why Metadata Matters from the EFF or the linked article ‘We Kill People Based on Metadata’.

Metadata — data about your data — is almost as powerful as the actual data.

Cyjax CISO Ian Thornton-Trump via WhatsApp Beaten By Apple’s New iMessage Privacy Update (forbes.com)

Why Signal?

Signal is an independent nonprofit. We’re not tied to any major tech companies, and we can never be acquired by one either.

Signal >> Home

This was exposed by the new privacy labels that Apple have added to their app store. Here’s a comparison, with Signal on the left and WhatsApp on the right:

Here’s a more interesting reason, which luckily doesn’t apply to me!

Do I really expect everybody to follow me?

I’m not naïve enough to think that all my contacts will migrate to Signal. I know I’m taking the risk of missing out on news or other communications.

Migrations have to start somewhere, and if I can influence just one person to follow me then that’s still a victory.

More coverage

Shortly after Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, its developers built state-of-the-art end-to-end encryption into the messaging app.

In 2016, WhatsApp gave users a one-time ability to opt out of having account data turned over to Facebook. Now, an updated privacy policy is changing that. Come next month, users will no longer have that choice.

Under the new terms, Facebook reserves the right to share collected data with its family of companies.

WhatsApp gives users an ultimatum: Share data with Facebook or stop using the app | Ars Technica

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