Be careful when sharing data on WhatsApp, say experts in Oman

Oman Tuesday 30/August/2016 21:53 PM
By: Times News Service
Be careful when sharing data on WhatsApp, say experts in Oman

Muscat: WhatsApp’s recent changes in privacy terms have sparked outrage across millions of users and privacy advocates around the globe, including Oman.
Cyber security experts, researchers and users have raised concerns over the popular ‘free chatting’ platform, which was bought by Facebook more than a year ago for $19 billion, for backtracking on its 2014 pledge to never share users’ data. According to the new update, data will be shared with Facebook and the Facebook group of companies.
“WhatsApp was bought by Facebook, and it was a free chat application but end to end communication was not encrypted, and when it was bought by Facebook, WhatsApp said it has been bought by Facebook, but nevertheless will continue being a free application and work as before. WhatsApp later introduced end to end communication encryption, that was a security feature and just a few days ago, a message pops up saying that your messages and your data will be shared with Facebook, the parent company, that is the issue,” said Tariq Al Barwani, IT expert and founder of Knowledge Oman.
He further explained the impact of this update on users, “This means everything— your personal info, your phone numbers on the WhatsApp network will be shared on Facebook and targeted advertisements will be coming to you.”
“I saw this coming that WhatsApp will say that we have revamped the way we work, and we have additional features, which really means having advertisements and that’s how they make money,” noted Al Barwani.
Although WhatsApp has mentioned that if you uncheck the share box on your WhatsApp account privacy, your personal data will not be shared with Facebook, but experts have different thoughts.
“Nevertheless, my opinion is that part of your information will continue to be shared,” Al Barwani stated. He also advised people to be careful when sharing information on social media, “We as users will unfortunately continue using the platform as we are addicted and my advice to people is that when using social media, if there is anything you don’t want anyone else to see, then don’t put it on this kind of platform.”
Apart from targeted advertising, Al Barwani also said it can be used to watch over users, “It can see everything, communication, photos, and contacts, there is no such thing as a private communication in this open internet communication and people need to be very careful.”
Mubeen Khan, another IT expert said, “When a user registers with WhatsApp, all their contact list is pasted onto the WhatsApp servers, giving them access to the entire contact list, so with over a billion users worldwide, WhatsApp and Facebook can get access to many more contacts, who will eventually be sent targeted adverts, maybe through telemarketing or other applications.”
“It’s not fair, WhatsApp had a policy to not share data and after being acquired by Facebook, they changed the policy. You also have to agree with their privacy policy, we have a choice, otherwise you have to stop using it and we are addicted.”
Rana Jose, an IT researcher at the Sultan Qaboos University said although data will be shared with Facebook, this will enable WhatsApp to catch spam and fraudulent activities. “New WhatsApp terms and conditions have a box which is, by default, checked, allowing the service provider to access customer data and target advertise. The latest change means parent company facebook can also use the data. The good thing about the new terms is that it would help them fight spam.
“Most users don’t read terms and conditions so they need to do that on WhatsApp,” Jose added.
Ali, a WhatsApp user in Oman expressed concern, “I am not happy about the change, this is not fair, we were positive about the encryption, but now this makes us feel unsafe and that we are being watched.”