Latest WhatsApp policy update may push Saudi users away: Cybersecurity experts

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
WhatsApp
Representational Image

Cybersecurity experts believe that the controversial new WhatsApp privacy policy update would lead Saudi users to move away from the Kingdom’s favorite instant messaging app.

According to the reports, the users of the popular mobile social media app will not be able to access the service from 8th February, unless they have accepted the policy update.

Under the new policy update, Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, will be able to collect users details, such as their phone number, email address, contacts, location, device ID, user ID, advertisement data, purchasing history, product engagement, payment details, diagnostic information, customer service, and metadata.

As a result, some Saudi WhatsApp users said they are now exploring other messaging apps, such as Telegram and Signal. Telegram only collects the user’s name, phone number, contacts, and user ID, while Signal only requires a cell phone number to register.

Faisal Alomran, a Saudi cybersecurity expert remarked that “Facebook applications are known for collecting too much personal information about their users, allegedly to deliver better user content experiences. However, the concern of data privacy is growing on normal users as they become more aware of the consequences of their private data being leaked.”

“Signal is widely considered to be one of the best applications when it comes to data privacy, as it claims to only collect the phone number for user registration,” he added.

According to Dubai-based research company Global Media Insight, 26.25 million Saudis use WhatsApp for instant messaging, making up 71 percent of messaging users in the Kingdom.

User privacy issues

Facebook is no stranger to privacy controversies. The tech giant has continuously been accused for data mining, violation of privacy, and the sale to third parties of private data. Furthermore, It has been banned in countries such as China, Iran, and Syria.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp was founded in 2009 as a free alternative to SMS text messages, which charged users for each individual message sent. It allows users to send text and voice messages, make voice and video calls, and share images, documents, user locations, and other media. Facebook acquired the social media application in February 2014 for approximately $19.3 billion.

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