WhatsApp has attempted to address privacy concerns surrounding its service as parent company Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal continues. The world’s most popular instant messaging service, WhatsApp says it collects very little data and that every single message is end-to-end encrypted. This clarification comes as experts have claimed that the service keeps track of users' messages. There are also concerns over provisions in the WhatsApp user agreement that allow most of the wrongdoings to go unchallenged and un-remedied.
WhatsApp collects very little data and every message is end-to-end encrypted. Contrary to recent comments in the media, we are not keeping track of the friends and family you have messaged, a WhatsApp spokesperson told PTI.
"The privacy and security of our users is incredibly important to WhatsApp," the spokesperson told PTI in response to a question.
The spokesperson said invite links were an optional feature available to group administrators but it must be used only with trusted individuals.
"Whenever a new member joins a group all members receive a notification that includes whether the person was added via group link or by an administrator directly. Group members can always see everyone in the group including their phone number and their name. We make it easy to leave a group or block unwanted messages with one tap, the spokesperson said.
In the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, WhatsApp has come under attack from critics.
"One-to-one communication between users are encrypted and may be as secure as WhatsApp claims. But the metadata, information about the calls, is likely being mined by the company," Vivek Wadhwa, a top American technology entrepreneur and academic, told PTI a day earlier. "WhatsApp has admitted that it is sharing information about identity and device information with Facebook, allowing it to do the dirty work in snooping on users."
Wadhwa said that the group chat feature of WhatsApp puts users at greater threat than their postings on Facebook because of the availability of mobile phone numbers.
Noting that almost one-quarter or more of the world's population is using WhatApp for free, eminent New York-based attorney Ravi Batra said that it makes money by harvesting user data and using it in conjunction with others including Facebook.
"There is an old saying: There is no free lunch. Yet, there is a new brave digital world that is free to use, and the costs and profit of providing the free services must come from 'mining' the habits and data connected to each user."