FORGET YOUR ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT WhatsApp and privacy, as according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) the encrypted chat app has a lot going on that it does not tell its users about.
The EFF provides a handy list called "Who has your back?" which provides us with a very good idea of which social and internet companies share what with the US government. WhatsApp does not do very well in the latest list because of all the things that it does on the quiet.
WhatsApp, according to the EFF, does not tell users about government data requests, does not stand up against national security gag orders and does not promise not to truss up users like Christmas turkeys (editor's note: "Does not promise to not sell out users").
"When we share information with third-party providers, we require them to use your information in accordance with our instructions and terms or with express permission from you," is the published official line.
WhatsApp is as shit in this respect as T-Mobile is, but not quite as bad as Verizon, which earns extra bad marks for not having a pro user public policy. We could have lead with Verizon here, but nah. WhatsApp is supposed to be encrypted from soup to nuts, and users might be surprised to hear about what a soggy paper bag it actually is.
"WhatsApp earns two stars in this year's report. This is Whatsapp's second year in Who Has Your Back, and it has adopted several industry best practices, including publishing a transparency report, requiring a warrant for content, and publishing its guidelines for law enforcement requests. WhatsApp, through its parent company Facebook, also supports substantive reforms to rein in NSA surveillance. However, there is room for improvement," says the EFF.
"We urge WhatsApp to promise to inform users before disclosing their data to the government and create a public policy of requesting judicial review of all National Security Letters. We also urge WhatsApp to continue to clarify its policies related to third-party access of its user data, either by making explicit that there is no third-party access or by stating explicitly that third parties are forbidden from allowing WhatsApp user data to be used for surveillance purposes."
We have asked WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, to comment on the views of the EFF and we are waiting to hear back. µ
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