In this age where Facebook owns everything and is actively using everything it knows about you to subconsciously manipulate you, I’m trying to move away from Facebook and its products as much as possible.
How WhatsApp started, and then fell into Facebook’s hands
WhatsApp started out as a pretty good solution to provide a cross-platform way of avoiding costly SMS fees back in the early days of the smartphone. It worked well and became the de facto way of communicating with family and friends all over the world regardless of what kind of phone they had.
In 2014, becoming aware of the potential wrapped up in all of this data people were sending back and forth to their nearest and dearest, Facebook bought WhatsApp for about $20 billion. Just take a second and realise how much money Facebook paid for a simple messaging app and consider why they might do that.
The problem is that Facebook’s business model is knowing as much as they possibly can about you and selling their knowledge of you to companies who can buy that knowledge to sell you stuff you might otherwise not buy (or make you vote for someone you might not have otherwise voted for…)
Personally, I don’t want that. I don’t want my own information to be used against me. While Facebook does now encrypt the contents of your messages (which to be clear, is a good start), it does not encrypt the metadata of your messages (even though it could).
This means it knows who you’re messaging, how often, when, you and your contacts’ phone numbers, and where you are.
Anything I can do to give Facebook less information about myself is a good thing and this is a case where you really don’t have to give up anything to do it.
A better alternative
Signal is a private messaging app that is built on the same foundation that WhatsApp is, so you get all the same features and familiar layout, but the privacy is greatly improved.
It’s not perfect because you do still need to use your phone number, however, they are currently working on a solution that will allow you to use Signal with a unique username to help protect your privacy even more.
Its code is open source (so its security is peer-reviewed), there’s no ads or trackers, it’s encrypted end to end, it’s completely free and cross-platform and it’s really feature-rich.
The only thing it lacks is that it is not yet as ubiquitous as WhatsApp. Which is where you and your influence come in. Start encouraging your spouse, kids, friends and family to use Signal and take your privacy back into your own hands.