EXPLAINER: Why WhatsApp Users Are Leaving The App In Droves

WhatsApp users are flocking to messaging apps like Signal and Telegram, owing to a change in the app’s privacy policy (and Elon Musk).

If you're a WhatsApp user, you may have noticed some of your contacts angling for a move to Signal. Or Telegram. Maybe even carrier pigeon. (Sorry. Too soon?)

Yup, this month the Facebook-owned messaging app slapped their nearly two billion users with a big fat pop-up: "WhatsApp is updating its terms and privacy policy," it said. One of the most major changes contained in the (4000-word!) privacy policy is that WhatsApp now has the right to share user data with Facebook and other Facebook-owned apps, like Instagram. The policy also says that people using WhatsApp to chat with business accounts may have their data shared for ad targeting.

Before the policy shift, WhatsApp users were able to opt in or out of sharing their data with Facebook, but the app is now putting their foot down: unless users agree to the terms by February 8, they'll be locked out of the app.

All of this has pissed off quite a few WhatsApp users, to say the least, especially given the company boasts that "privacy and security are in [their] DNA".

Newly-crowned richest person Elon Musk responded to the news, tweeting "use signal", a sentiment that's amassed 360k likes to date.

Even US whistleblower and privacy advocate Edward Snowden jumped on the bandwagon, adding: "I use [Signal] every day and I'm not dead yet." Huge.

Apparently WhatsApp's loss is Signal's gain, with over five million people reportedly downloading the encrypted messaging app last weekend. Others have flocked to Telegram, a similar service.

WhatsApp responded to the pushback this week. "We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way", the company says. "Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data."

Honestly, let's just start using landlines again. Or shout our voice messages into a ravine. Whatever. All these privacy statements are getting me down.

Written by Reena Gupta, a Melbourne-based writer at MTV Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @purpletank

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