Most famous messaging app of the era is Whatsapp undoubtedly. Though the company has a bunch of rivals fighting to take its position the company has managed to retain its top position. Founded by the ex-employees of Yahoo, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, the company was purchased by the social media giant Facebook in the year 2014.
After the purchase Whatsapp was announced free, unlike the earlier annual subscription charges.
The deal cost Mark Zuckerburg a staggering $19.3 billion. At that time the deal was the costliest purchase of a venture backed company. Ironically the founders of Whatsapp were rejected for a job in facebook way before they created the application.
Since its inception Whatsapp has been updating itself continuously by rolling out new features to keep its users base intact. The company has close to a billion users worldwide.
Facebook is where we get to create our profiles and have a virtual social life. For a social media platform that provides us with so many services we are charged absolutely nothing. So how does facebook make many? Mark Zuckerburg is the 6th richest man in the world with wealth accounting up to $51.7 billion. Facebook generates this kind of money through its advertisements; here the commodity is the user’s base.
Facebook and Google know better things about you than your partner does. Most of the advertisements that are displayed in your sidebar are related to your online activity. Many activists have been protesting that this steals our data and lacks privacy, but FB says that it increases your overall experience in the site and of course gives them a lot of money.
Promoted posts are another way of gaining money which is possible because of our ability to scroll through our timeline which is designed for infinite scrolling. So the social media giant has now decided to integrate your Whatsapp activity with facebook to again create a favorable experience for the users.
When you let facebook have access to your Whatsapp account then facebook can know more about you like whom you chat with the most and flood your timeline with posts related to them and make you to use facebook for a long time. Of course this means more revenue to the facebook website. However this integration is not a must and one can opt out of it and the option will never appear again. However, this integration has not gone well with many of the users and privacy rights activists.
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Privacy concerns with facebook
The organization has already faced several public criticisms regarding the data it shared with the US National Security Agency (NSA) after it was revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. Along with this are the inflammatory statements of Zuckerburg stating that people no longer cared for privacy.
However, the company has denied any involvement in the issue.
But the company has increased its initiatives to make privacy as one of its main concerns. Facebook’s Global Deputy Chief Privacy officer Stephen Deadman stated that Facebook’s business was built on trust and they would maintain it.
Facebook’s director of security Jennifer Henley stated the company scrutinized every request made by the government regarding data sharing.
Deadman who entered the privacy management of Facebook has handled similar situations earlier in Vodafone; this company too faced issues with the fallout of Snowden’s revelations.
The website has made privacy options more clear to the users by introducing easy accessible options to users. They are handled as a part of the design team.
It is because the team believes that when options ae made clear people tend to make better decisions about what they share.
The court of justice of the European Union pulled down the safe Harbor data sharing between America and the European Union. This was an agreement which existed for 15 years between the two bodies for sharing data.
The significant effect will be on American Internet based companies which rely on data that are sent back to the US shores, Major companies being Google, Facebook and Twitter. However the companies need not stop transmitting information right at the moment but individual countries can now decide whether the safe harbor is legal or illegal.
It is very unlikely that governments will go against the ruling of Chief Justice of European Union. The case was originally sent to CJEU by Irish high court after the data protection authority in Ireland rejected the application from Maxmillian Schrems, an Austrian Citizen.
He argues that in the light of Snowden’s revelation the data transferred to US via Ireland Subsidiary was not meeting the safe Harbor standards and rather the data was safely harbored.
When Ireland government stands by CJEU then companies based in Ireland will have to stop sending back to US and have to build data centers within Europe. Otherwise US has to provide protection to European data that is flowing back there which is unlikely to occur with NSA surveillance which has never backed even after several criticism from the American Privacy activists themselves.
Twitter on the other hand has started preparing itself for the judgment and started bifurcation of data handling. It has started publishing its new privacy policies that has two different set of rules one for the US users and the other for the rest of the world users.
Another possible solution to this problem is creating another safe harbor agreement. But with European Union already accusing US the new laws would be more stringent and this is a victory for European citizens’ privacy.
Data is what that drives these companies and to gather further data from a larger pool of people facebook launched its internet.org and latter renamed it to free basics.
This was an initiative by the company to launch select internet facilities for free in developing countries. This was faced again with lot of criticism by many telecom regulatory companies for violating net neutrality.
India has completely banned free basics services.
With so many privacy and data concerns already taking Facebook’s fare share of legal teams’ time, the Whatsapp feature is another one. With many people expressing their displeasure with the integration the company has provided with an option to out of it.
The rivals of Whatsapp telegram and line stated after the purchase of Whatsapp by facebook they have seen a quite an increase in their users base. However one cannot be very sure whether it was linked to Facebook’s integration.
Facebook’s thirst for data is quite understandable but not protecting its data providers security heavily damages the company’s reputation.