Whatsapp Terms of Service: What happens when the time limit expires? – digital

Millions of people have seen a full screen message on their smartphones every day for months: Whatsapp is updating its terms of service and would like the changes to be accepted – by May 15. What does it mean? And what happens if you refuse? An overview.

What happens on saturday

More than two billion users are expected to agree to the new terms of service and a revised data protection statement by Saturday. This deadline was initially due to expire in early February. But the little pop-up caused a huge panic. Whatsapp has therefore extended the deadline for three months.

What is really going to happen on Saturday?

Maybe nothing at all – at least not right away. “No account is (…) deleted or any functionality restricted”, assures Whatsapp. “You will not be able (…) neither to read nor to send messages in the application”, indicated an earlier version of the press release.

But the outrage is great, which is probably why Whatsapp wants to display the reminder for “a few weeks” until the pop-up is permanently on chat view. Then you can continue to accept voice and video calls or reply to messages. It is no longer possible to start a conversation yourself. After “a few weeks”, Whatsapp should finally shut up. However, the vague schedules given in recent months give way to further postponements.

What will change with the new conditions?

Whatsapp wants to make money with its business customers. It therefore revises the conditions of use and gives companies the possibility of communicating directly with users. Whatsapp is also amending parts of the privacy policy to clarify how it handles information. But the two biggest fears don’t apply: On the one hand, messages remain end-to-end encrypted, WhatsApp can never see the content. On the other hand, the metadata is shared with the parent company so that Facebook can know who opens the app, when and with whom. In the EU, however, the General Data Protection Regulation prohibits the use of such information for advertising purposes.

So why all the fuss?

The backlash is partly based on scare-mongering rumors and tactics, and partly self-inflicted: the world’s largest communications service provider has communicated poorly. The original review in the app was poor, the changes weren’t clearly explained anywhere. As before, the information is spread over several documents, which are available in different versions for the EU and the rest of the world and which sometimes contradict each other.

An example: Whatsapp claims that it does not pass data within the EU to Facebook “in order to provide more relevant advertising experiences on Facebook” – but limits this wording with the word “currently” itself. The privacy policy also states that Whatsapp has a legitimate interest in processing personal data in order to send direct mail. But it has been around for years and has nothing to do with the current changes.

Can consent be revoked?

No. Once you have accepted the changes, you cannot go back. Those who regret the click must hope in Johannes Caspar. Hamburg’s data protection officer on Tuesday banned Facebook “from processing personal data from Whatsapp, provided this is done for its own purposes.” Caspar believes the new terms give Facebook additional powers.

“The arrangement aims to guarantee the rights and freedoms of several million users,” he said. Whatsapp announces that Caspar’s assessment is based “on a fundamental misunderstanding” and “will have no influence on the further introduction of the update”. In fact, lawyers and other data and consumer advocates also doubt that the new terms of service are the correct reason for the order. Regardless of that, the executive order could prevent Facebook from using WhatsApp data for advertising purposes at any given time. At least on Facebook’s own promises, you shouldn’t be giving away much: the company has broken them quite often in the past.

Should I change my mailbox?

A lot of people seem to be asking this question. In a survey, four in ten respondents in Germany said they had already tried a new service. The most popular alternative option, however, was the messenger from parent company Facebook – which is guaranteed to use usage data for advertising purposes. If you haven’t had a problem with WhatsApp so far, you don’t need to change, after all almost nothing changes. It is not necessarily a matter of concern. Whether with the old or the new terms of use: the data ends up on Facebook.

What are the alternatives ?

The bad news first: The most popular WhatsApp alternative that has nothing to do with Facebook is called Telegram – and by default it doesn’t protect messages with end-to-end encryption. Additionally, operators apparently understand through free speech that Nazis, criminals, and violent conspirators are allowed to use the service unhindered.

The good news: Along with Signal and Threema, there are secure and privacy-friendly messaging services that have also taken advantage of the WhatsApp confusion. Where you had to talk to each other or only meet a few convicts, you can now find many people on your contact list. And the more families, parent groups, and sports teams change chats, the less need to keep using Whatsapp.

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