Facebook Can’t Read your WhatsApp Messages...or Can It?
Facebook and privacy do not mix.
On September 7, 201, Propublica.org published a report titled ‘How Facebook Undermines Privacy Protections for Its 2 Billion WhatsApp Users’.
In this report, the media organization exposed how Facebook has employed over 1,000 people dedicated to reviewing chats from WhatsApp.
While this is something that Facebook currently does for its two other apps - Instagram and Facebook, it’s an activity that in the past has been considered and reported as “impossible” on WhatsApp.
A Facebook representative told Business Insider that they allow WhatsApp users to report abuse, and those reports are then reviewed by contractors (the 1,000+ personnel they hired).
This claim goes against what the company’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, mentioned in a 2018 testimony to the U.S Senate. Then, Zuckerberg said that WhatsApp messages are so secure that nobody else - not even the company - can read a word. “We don't see any of the content in WhatsApp,” he testified.
He further stated that his vision was centered on WhatsApp’s signature feature of end-to-end encryption, which converts all messages into an unreadable format that is only unlocked when they reach their intended destinations. His vision included extending this to Facebook and Instagram. According to ProPublica, this vision may be a bit flawed.
But wait, there’s more!
In public statements and on the company’s websites, Facebook Inc. is noticeably vague about WhatsApp’s monitoring process. The company doesn’t provide detailed information on how WhatsApp polices the platform, and what they can do with data.
In 2016, WhatsApp disclosed that it would be sharing user data with Facebook - something that Zuckerberg has said wouldn’t happen. This was done to facilitate future revenue-generation plans.
Some of the information that would be shared included user’s phone numbers, profile photos, status messages, and IP addresses for the purpose of ad targeting, fighting spam and abuse, and gathering metrics.
What does this mean for you?
While Facebook can/does apparently not read all your chats or view your media files, it can read content that has been reported. Moreover, it collects all your metadata.
So, what can you do?
Don’t use WhatsApp to share any sensitive information and switch to less-intrusive messaging platforms, such as Signal, if you need to have private conversations.
Peace, love & anarchy,