Tuesday , March 9 2021

The crossroads of WhatsApp The democracy

Pedro became a careful user for two years. Does not use Facebook or Instagram. Replace Zoom with Jitsi Meet, an open source application that does not require an email account login. We uninstalled WhatsApp forever. “Not that I have any kind of psychosis,” he says in a video call to Jitsi. I’m just looking for practicality. I do not find it so attractive to move in fashion “.

She is studying letters in San Marco and is, since the end of 2019, a user of Signal, the application that rose to the heights this week after the announcement of WhatsApp for changes in its privacy policy. The most popular messaging application in the world (hosts 2 billion people) planned, from February 8, to channel the information of all its users on Facebook, its parent company.

The controversy sparked a change of plans – WhatsApp’s decision was postponed to May 15 – but above all a virtual exit: in four days, Signal recorded 7.5 million new downloads worldwide for both Android and Android iOS, 43 times more than last week, according to Sensor Tower data. Even Elon Mosk, its founder Tesla and the second richest man on the planet, joined their ranks.

When Pedro downloaded it, Signal was used by only two of his contacts. He could not make group video calls or send voice messages, there were no stickers to enliven the conversations. Now all this is available. His family and close circle joined him. “Let’s say the announcement was a boost to see to what extent we would be manipulated,” he thinks on the other end of the phone.

Telegram, for its part, has more than 500 million active users, with 25 million young people in just 72 hours worldwide. Its founder, the Russian tycoon Pavel Durov, celebrated the controversy with one eye. “People no longer trade their privacy for free,” Durov said. It no longer wants to be held hostage by technological monopolies. “Thus, it boasted of having the most stringent encryption and data protection systems of all messaging applications.

Pável Dúrov, founder of Telegram.

“As of last Friday, 47 of my contacts have joined Telegram,” said Joaquina Izaguirre, who has been using the app since 2016. A few days ago, Joaquina was talking about the wedding of one of her friends. Minutes later, her Instagram account featured ads for places to spend her honeymoon, and Facebook began sharing wedding planner profiles. “I have never seen or looked for such a thing. It was an advertising product of a conversation WhatsApp“, He assures.

According to the analyst and Technology consultant Arthur GogaIt is a “cooling” phenomenon. On his YouTube channel, where he posted an educational clip on the subject, Goga said that if WhatsApp shared his data on Facebook and Instagram, we would be exposed to millions of advertisers on the networks: we would be like “cows in the slaughterhouse” before from the “best bidder”.

From its platform, Facebook has shown that there is a “misinformation campaign”. and WhatsApp, that your latest update does not affect anyone’s security. They called for calm, but the conflict involves more than that.


We must return to the beginning of this debate. On January 4, WhatsApp announced changes to its privacy policy for sharing certain metadata with the company’s ecosystem of applications. Mark Zuckerberg. With them, advertisers could communicate with their customers through the messaging app, or even sell their products directly there, as is the case in India.

Precisely, Facebook would have access to our contact data and our profile, in addition to the content of our messages (currently encrypted). He will know, for example, our phone number, the operations we perform, how and with whom we interact (including companies), the device we operate or our IP address. With this information, he would set up his algorithm to find all kinds of correlations: what ad would sell us when we were sad or what to send us after watching a particular video, reading an article, or posting a specific comment.

Elon Musk from Telsa joined Signal.

“Facebook already handles a huge amount of information about us,” he said Arthur Goga-. He does not need to listen to us: he knows our impulses, our quests, our contacts, even before we think about it (sic) “.

“The user is reduced to a product,” he points out Miguel Rabbi, Optical Network Telephony and Integrated Communications Product Manager–. Maybe because WhatsApp is huge and free, we confuse it as a public service. No. It is a company and it must earn revenue “.

“It simply came to our notice then digital culture, not just for those born with technology under their arms – he says Fernando Juaman, professor and researcher in the Department of Engineering of PUCP–. We do not know a little. In addition, we accept the terms without reading them. WhatsApp does not break the rules: it is transparent with the ace up its sleeve. It really creates a monopoly on the use of communications. “

Goga, Rabi and Huamán agree that the possible solution is to migrate to other platforms, a practice that has spread today and for which WhatsApp has postponed its plans. Goga has pointed out how “practical” the Telegram and the Signal are. Technically, Rabi explains that Telegram is “quite programmable” and Signal “much safer”. (The former CIA agent Edward Snowden uses it to avoid the FBI). Huamán, for his part, urges companies not to use WhatsApp as the main means of coordinating telework. “Do not give her this power,” he calls the expert.

Joaquina Izaguirre claims to have received ads on Facebook and Instagram after a chat on WhatsApp.

But Facebook, the empire to which WhatsApp belongs, is powerful and ubiquitous. Chris Hughes, its co-founder, is sometimes said to have ousted Mark Zuckerberg ‘s approach to development “leading him to sacrifice security and courtesy for clicks.”

Last week, following the attack on the Capitol, Facebook fired Donald Trump for directing acts that “undermine” democracy, although he reactivated his accounts two days ago. The digital economist has settled that digital platforms are the only ones that can impose populist rhetoric and that false information represents the “collective failure” of our society. Tomaso Valletti, Head of Competition of the European Commission between 2016 and 2019. This emporium has achieved – said Valletti – “an unprecedented economic and political force, instead of limiting it.”

How will we succeed in the future with this kind of digital influence? What prevents WhatsApp competitors from taking advantage of our data? A few years ago when Zuckerberg acquired WhatsApp, experts predicted that we would see these answers in 2021. The time has come.

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