Facing a huge backlash over the updated privacy policy, the American messaging freeware, Whatsapp has launched an aggressive advertisement campaign to allay the concerns. The company launched a full front page ad in the leading newspapers of India claiming that it 'respects and protects your privacy'.

The Mark Zuckerberg-owned company contended in the ad, "WhatsApp cannot see your private messages or hear your calls, and neither can Facebook: every private message, photo, video, voice message, and document you send your friends, family, and co-workers in one-on-one or group chats is protected by end-to-end encryption, it stays between you."

Whatsapp advertisement in major Indian dailies on 13th Jan 2021Credit: Twitter (Ankit Lal)

Is Whatsapp keen to address privacy concerns?

By February 8, the update notification received by WhatsApp users forces them to accept the new terms and conditions, or lose their access to all WhatsApp accounts. As per the new policy, WhatsApp data collected from users will be automatically shared with Facebook and the consent is made compulsory.

The information which may be shared by Facebook and its related companies include the usage pattern of a user on Whatsapp, his or her profile picture, status, and 'about' information. Those who are apprehensive to accept the new rules are forced to loose their WhatsApp access and accounts.

Threema vs WhatsApp

Moreover, Facebook and its other products may also use the information to make recommendations for users, personalize features and content, and view relevant deals and advertising through Facebook products.

Perhaps, on allowing permission it will also collect data at the system level, such as what device you are using, your mobile network, IP address, etc. The agreement allows WhatsApp to capture and use accurate location information from your smartphone while the location is on, and to predict your location when the GPS is off with information such as area codes.

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WhatsApp (Representational Image) WhatsApp India Press Kit

Ever since the notifications were pushed earlier this month to the users, it met with fierce criticism with people raising questions over its handling of private data. It resulted in lakhs of people switching over to another messaging app, Signal which has become one of the most downloaded apps on Google Playstore in less than a week.

The Whatsapp advertisement on the front page of major Indian dailies reiterated, "We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. 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."

Signal, Telegram gain

Facebook ads have come after its main rival Signal saw 7.5 million downloads last week, a 4,200% increase on the previous week. Telegram, a similar app, saw 9 million downloads, a 91% increase, with India remaining the biggest source of downloads.

Telegram recorded phenomenal growth of 500 million monthly active users (MAUs), and registered 25 million (2.5 crore) new users joining the platform globally in the last 72 hours alone as of Jan. 13 as many users shun WhatsApp over data privacy concerns.