Privacy Policies of (Un) Social Media

Privacy Policies of (Un) Social Media

Let me tell you the honest truth. We are educated illiterates. When you are on the boat of the internet, privacy is bound to sink.

Internet is life. Yes, you heard it right. It has transformed into a ventilator for all of us. It runs through our blood. We eat the internet. We breathe the internet. It is existence itself.
This is a fact. We have closed our minds. The world is being controlled by virtual technology. We think through the prism of the internet. What the internet feeds us, we take it as a vaccine. Social Media is the heart and soul of the world today. It is a magic pill that has penetrated our minds, like needles of addictive drugs. Drug is a small word, though; it is cultural imperialism.
The privacy policies of social media platforms have always been a matter of debate. Let me tell you the honest truth. We are educated illiterates. When you are on the boat of the internet, privacy is bound to sink, somewhere, at some point of time. It is a fact that needs to be digested by one and all. You agree to the terms and conditions of the software and of the apps. You provide a well-educated consent. But the Internet is like a ghost that stalks you without your knowing. We are living in a fool’s paradise if we think that our privacy is not at stake while using the internet. The secure cyber systems of the most powerful nations get hacked in the blink of an eye.
The new privacy policy of WhatsApp has ignited a debate. Debates erupt and subside. This time the debate is due to apprehensions that WhatsApp will penetrate the private world of users and breach it. WhatsApp will share the sensitive data of users with Facebook. That is the latest turn of the screw. It further limits the private space for the already susceptible users. Now we have to hold our breath.
But what information WhatsApp will share with Facebook? Well, almost everything. “The information we share with the other Facebook Companies includes your account registration information (such as your phone number), transaction data, service-related information, information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using our Services, mobile device information, your IP address, and may include other information identified in the Privacy Policy section entitled ‘Information We Collect’ or obtained upon notice to you or based on your consent,” states the privacy policy. It is also collecting more information at a device hardware-level now. What remains to be unshared then? It is a self-explanatory grotesque truth told in a pleasant manner.
The new policy also explains how businesses get data when a user interacts with them on the platform: content shared with a business on WhatsApp will be visible to “several people in that business”. This is important because WhatsApp now has over 50 million business accounts. To be precise, this is a potential monetisation model for WhatsApp.
However, after facing backlash, WhatsApp issued an ambiguous clarification. “The update does not change WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices with Facebook and does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family… WhatsApp remains deeply committed to protecting people’s privacy.” However, it is silent on the sensitive data sharing of the users. This is where the suspicions enter the scene.
Data sharing between WhatsApp and Facebook has long attracted the attention of the world’s internet regulators. In 2018, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) got WhatsApp to sign an undertaking in which it committed publicly to not share personal data with Facebook in the future until the two services can do it in a way that is compliant with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This is clear indication that something is being cooked behind the scenes under the garb of privacy policy.
Criticism has erupted across the world against the new privacy policy. But we need to focus on the other technological platforms where our privacy is being breached blatantly. Privacy protection is not a badge that social media companies will wear on their sleeves. They force you to agree to the policies. Here you either accept or just get out. It is as simple as that. Shifting to Signal or Telegram or whatever is not a licence to a secure cyberspace. Every social media platform curtails your right to think, argue, or express. They censor your conscience. We don’t dare to read the dictates even once. They have fettered our ability to question.
If we will heat up the debates on trivial matters, how the hell will we be able to uproot the root of the curse? Silence has limits, and beyond those limits, it turns into a sin. There are international laws and organisations to regulate the cyber world. They need to be active and smart. The brilliant minds of the world need to put their heads together to come up with effective recommendations. The futile deliberations on the privacy policies generate only corpses in an intellectual wasteland. Let the social media corporate giants construct healthy policies rather than manufacturing (un) social curses.

The writer has a PG degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. [email protected]


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