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If you're a WhatsApp user, you'll have to share your personal data with Facebook's empire from next month – or stop using the chat app

If you don't agree then, well, you'll just have to use the infinitely better Signal


Updated WhatsApp users must agree to share their personal information with Facebook and its wider empire if they want to continue using the messaging service from next month, according to its terms and conditions.

“As part of the Facebook Companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, the other Facebook Companies,” its privacy policy, updated this week, states.

“We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings, including the Facebook Company Products.”

Said information includes your personal data. Thus, WhatsApp users who want to keep using the software must agree to allow their personal info to be shared with not only Facebook but also its subsidiaries as and when decided by the tech giant.

Users will be presented with the following choice in the app: accept this arrangement by February 8, or be blocked from using the end-to-end encrypted chat app.

Screenshot of the ultimatum ... Click to enlarge

When WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014, it promised netizens that its instant-messaging app would not collect names, addresses, internet searches, or location data. CEO Jan Koum wrote in a blog post: “Above all else, I want to make sure you understand how deeply I value the principle of private communication. For me, this is very personal. I was born in Ukraine, and grew up in the USSR during the 1980s.

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"One of my strongest memories from that time is a phrase I’d frequently hear when my mother was talking on the phone: 'This is not a phone conversation; I’ll tell you in person.' The fact that we couldn’t speak freely without the fear that our communications would be monitored by KGB is in part why we moved to the United States when I was a teenager.”

Two years later, however, that vow was eroded by, well, capitalism, and WhatsApp revealed it would be "coordinating more with Facebook," and gave people the opportunity to opt out of any data sharing. This time around, there is no opt-out for the sharing of data with Facebook and its tentacles. Koum left in 2018.

That means users who wish to keep using WhatsApp must be prepared to give up personal info such as their names, profile pictures, status updates, phone numbers, contacts lists, and IP addresses, as well as data about their mobile devices, such as model numbers, operating system versions, and network carrier, to the mothership. If users engage with businesses via the app, details such as shipping addresses and the amount of money spent on orders may be passed to Facebook, too.

The Register asked Facebook to explain this all, and it declined to comment on the record. ®

Updated to add at 2100 UTC, January 7

WhatsApp is now saying it won't share with Facebook personal information belonging to folks who previously opted out of sharing their info with the social network. So if you opted out of handing over your data to Facebook in the past, this setting will apparently still be honored going forward next month even if you agree to the new policy. For everyone else, there is no opt out.

A spokesperson for the internet giant also told us the privacy policy changes primarily center around sending messages to businesses to get answers and support, and claimed there will be no change in data sharing with Facebook for non-business chats and account information. This, she said, is because organizations will be given the option to use Facebook’s infrastructure to host and manage their WhatsApp conversations if they don’t want to store people's messages themselves. This biz feature has yet to roll out.

In short, these updates have been poorly communicated by Facebook, and wrapped up in lengthy fine-print that could be interpreted in all sorts of ways – which could, of course, be by design. Just use Signal instead.

Euronote

As we pointed out earlier, the above privacy policy overhaul applies to WhatsApp users outside Facebook's so-called European Region, an area that includes the UK. For countries inside the region, WhatsApp says in this FAQ it "shares information with the other Facebook Companies who act on our behalf to help us operate, provide, improve, understand, customise, support, and market our Services."

It goes on:

When we receive services from the Facebook Companies, the information we share with them is used on WhatsApp’s behalf and in accordance with our instructions. Any information WhatsApp shares on this basis cannot be used for the Facebook Companies’ own purposes.

Translation: Facebook-owned WhatsApp may share info with Facebook, and tell it how to use it for a particular service, though Facebook can't use that data for some other purpose. If you're not happy with that arrangement, you can complain here.

On Twitter, Niamh Sweeney, director of policy for WhatsApp in EMEA, added that, for netizens in the European Region, "There are no changes to WhatsApp's data-sharing practices in Europe arising from this update. It remains the case that WhatsApp does not share European Region WhatsApp user data with Facebook for the purpose of Facebook using this data to improve its products or ads.

"The updated Policy provides info on how businesses using the WhatsApp API to talk to customers can now do so using a Facebook-provided service to help them manage their chats with customers."

Facebook Pages update

In related news, Facebook has redesigned Pages, a feature for public figures and businesses. The biggest change is it’ll have a news feed focused on person’s or company’s latest updates, allowing users to interact with the admins of the Facebook Page. Celebrities can engage with fans; people can grumble about their customer service pains and so on.

It has also removed the godforsaken “like” button so that the page only shows the number of people following it. These changes won't affect normal Facebook accounts.

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A single HPC-AI software environment is less desirable than you might think

Every possible thing that can be tuned must be tuned – and tuned well

Register Debate Welcome to the latest Register Debate in which writers discuss technology topics, and you the reader choose the winning argument. The format is simple: we propose a motion, the arguments for the motion will run this Monday and Wednesday, and the arguments against on Tuesday and Thursday. During the week you can cast your vote on which side you support using the poll embedded below, choosing whether you're in favour or against the motion. The final score will be announced on Friday, revealing whether the for or against argument was most popular.

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Our contributor today debating AGAINST the motion is Timothy Prickett Morgan, co-editor of The Next Platform.

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Don't panic about cyber insurers pulling up the drawbridge, says Lloyd's

New clauses are menu to pick from, not commandments of stone

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The LMA, a trade body for Lloyd's-affiliated insurance syndicates, published a series of model clauses last week that caused some disquiet among cybersecurity industry folk.

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More than half of UK workers would consider jumping ship if a hybrid work option were withdrawn by their company

How to dodge The Great Resignation

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The figures, produced by YouGov and published by Microsoft, come from a survey of 2,046 employees taken online over 7-15 October 2021. 504 "HR Decision Makers" (HRDM) were also consulted.

The report is timely considering the UK government introduced its "Plan B" restrictions last night, which include advice to work from home where possible. Clearly for the time being employers cannot pull the option.

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UK and USA seek new world order for cross-border data sharing and privacy

They'll even run a competition to help this along

Officials from the USA and UK have signaled an intention to together shape a new world order for data sharing across borders.

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, met with US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to hold discussions on cross border data flows, supply chains and tariffs.

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Big Tech's private networks and protocols threaten the 'net, say internet registries

APNIC and LACNIC worry about who will set the rules of future internetworking

The internet remains resilient, and its underlying protocols and technologies dominate global networking – but its relevance may be challenged by the increasing amount of traffic carried on private networks run by Big Tech, or rules imposed by governments.

So says a Study on the Internet's Technical Success Factors commissioned by APNIC and LACNIC – the regional internet address registries for the Asia–Pacific and Latin America and Caribbean regions respectively – and written by consultancy Analysys Mason.

Presented on Wednesday at the 2021 Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the study identifies four reasons the internet has succeeded:

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PC market pulls past peak pandemic demand, and IDC says it will keep growing

Lappies are leaping – albeit a little lower – and gamers are growing, but tablets are turgid

While the PC market is cooling following two straight years of double-digit growth spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, analyst firm International Data Corporation (IDC) has predicted shipments will continue to grow over the next five years.

The analyst firm's latest Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker predicts the PC market will enjoy a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.3 per cent. Notebook PCs will drive the growth, but tablets will decline.

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Alibaba the biggest, but more clouds on China's horizon

Huawei, Tencent, and Baidu all growing fast, and Americlouds are about to expand

Alibaba continues to dominate China's cloud market, according to analyst firm Canalys.

In its assessment of Chinese cloud services spending, published today, Canalys asserted that Alibaba won 38.3 per cent market share in Q3 2021 and scored annual revenue growth of 33.3 per cent.

Huawei's market share declined, but it remained ahead of Tencent.

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Oz Feds reveal distribution model behind backdoored 'An0m' chat app spread by crims

Resellers were given exclusive territories to target, and offered tech support

Australia's Federal Police force has revealed more about how it distributed a backdoored chat app to criminals.

The app, named An0m, was revealed in June 2021 when Australia's Feds (AFP), the FBI and European authorities revealed they'd combined to convince crims the software allowed secure communications. The app ran on conventional Android smartphones modified to run An0m and nothing else.

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Apple wins Epic court ruling: Devs will pay up for now as legal case churns on

Previous injunction that ordered company to allow non-Apple payments systems is suspended

Apple will not be required to implement third-party in-app payments systems for its App Store by 9 December, after a federal appeals court temporarily suspended the initial ruling on Wednesday.

As part of its ongoing legal spat with Epic, a judge from the Northern District Court of California said Apple wasn’t a monopoly, but agreed it’s ability to swipe up to a 30 per cent fee in sales processed in iOS apps was uncompetitive. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ordered an injunction, giving the iGiant 90 days to let developers add links or buttons in their apps to direct users to third-party purchasing systems.

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Meg Whitman – former HP and eBay CEO – nominated as US ambassador to Kenya

Donated $110K to Democrats in recent years

United States president Joe Biden has announced his intention to nominate former HPE and eBay CEO Meg Whitman as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Kenya.

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Ex-Qualcomm Snapdragon chief turns CEO at AI chip startup MemryX

Meet the new boss

A former executive leading Qualcomm's Snapdragon computing platforms has departed the company to become CEO at an AI chip startup.

Keith Kressin will lead product commercialization for MemryX, which was founded in 2019 and makes memory-intensive AI chiplets.

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