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National Privacy Commission raises concerns over WhatsApp

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Jan 20, 2021 8:32 pm

The National Privacy Commission (NPC) has raised a number of concerns over the changes in privacy policy that the Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp is set to implement.

“The broad language WhatsApp used in its new privacy terms has stirred confusion and concern,” the NPC said in a statement released early today, Jan. 21. “Critical privacy questions such as the scope of data that Facebook and its family companies will be able to harvest from WhatsApp and whether agreeing to the new policy is mandatory remain unanswered.”

A number of WhatsApp users have reportedly exited the platform after it announced recently a raft of changes in its policies, leaving users concerned that their data could unwittingly end up in Facebook. The reported exodus in turn saw other messaging competitors such as Signal experience a sudden growth in downloads.

Tech multibillionaire Elon Musk even tweeted an endorsement of the messaging app Signal.

“While the Commission takes positive note on WhatsApp’s emphatic assurance on its continued end-to-end encryption of messages and calls, we would like to note that encryption is a bare minimum requirement for ensuring data protection,” the NPC said.

The NPC noted that WhatsApp’s source code being proprietary, it may not be viewed by experts who may want to validate the security and privacy of the application.

The NPC also listed 11 points raised by their Data Security and Technology Standards Division on the reported policy changes of WhatsApp:

1. Involves third parties in operating the service
2. Being provided ''as is'' and to be used at the users' sole risk
3. Having authority to delete your account without prior notice or a reason
4. Makes no warranty regarding uninterrupted, timely, secure or error-free service
5. Uses your personal data for advertising 
6. May use tracking pixels, web beacons, browser fingerprinting, and/or device fingerprinting on users.
7. May use your personal information for marketing purposes
8. Can or otherwise transfer your personal data as part of a bankruptcy proceeding or other type of financial transaction.
9. Forces users into binding arbitration in the case of disputes
10. Keeps user logs for an undefined period of time
11. Gathers information about you through third parties

NPC also took issue with the potential sharing of data with parent Facebook, “which has not had a stellard record in personal data protection and management.”

NPC said they will also coordinate directly with WhatsApp regarding their concern.

“Pending the result of our discussions, we encourage the public to prepare backing up their data stored in WhatsApp in case moving to a different platform turns out to be the more prudent choice,” NPC said.