IMPORTANT – READ THIS: Should We Be Leaving WhatsApp?

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As you may have already seen, the world of social media has recently gone up in flames. Twitter has shut down Donald Trump’s account, Apple banned ‘Parler’, the conservative social media platform, from their app store, and WhatsApp is forcing users to adhere to obscure terms and conditions.

So, does this mean all the popular social media platforms will now censor all of our content?

It is scary to see how Twitter is handling the situation. Even Apple. But we’re going to focus on how what’s currently going on with WhatsApp is extremely different.

With WhatsApp’s new “terms and conditions” many WhatsApp users understandably assumed that this meant WhatsApp had finally crossed a line, requiring data-sharing with no alternative. But in truth, the company says that the privacy policy deletion simply reflects how WhatsApp has shared data with Facebook since 2016 for the vast majority of its now 2 billion-plus users.

However, we need to keep in mind that none of this has, at any point, impacted one of WhatsApp’s prime features: end-to-end encryption. Messages, photos, and other content you send and receive on WhatsApp can only be viewed on your smartphone and the devices of the people you choose to message with. WhatsApp and Facebook itself cannot access your communications. In fact, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to expanding end-to-end encryption offerings as part of tying the company’s different communication platforms together. This privacy feature doesn’t mean there isn’t still a trove of other data WhatsApp can collect and share about you and how you utilize their platform. The company states that it collects user information “to operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services.”

So what do all those terms mean? Is it time to panic? Should we be switching to other apps like Telegram and Signal?

The short answer is no. The long answer is also no. If you read the terms and conditions for the app Signal, you’ll notice that it’s extremely similar to WhatsApp’s. Is it worth it to switch? Probably not. As for Telegram, there’s an extreme danger that the frum world isn’t taking into account.

I currently co-host a podcast called ‘Meaningful People‘ with my friend, Nachi Gordon. We sit down each week with the frum communities’ most influential people and talk to them about their lives. A year ago, I was doing research online and discovered that Telegram is home to many “groups” that act as great sources of information. Not knowing much about the app, I downloaded it hoping to discover said ‘groups’ dedicated to podcasting and interviewing. Instead, I was horrified. While Telegram may seem like a similar platform to WhatsApp, it is also “open to the public”. This means, almost anyone can search for and join groups dealing with illegal drugs, “filth”, and other dark web media. What makes it so dangerous is that it’s so easy to accidentally stumble into these groups or “people nearby your area” (a feature that allows you to connect with any telegram user nearby). On our episode with Rabbi Yaakov Bender, Rosh HaYeshiva of Darchei Torah, (back in early 2020) he even mentioned the dangers of Telegram’s ability to send extremely large uncensored files.

Many people have been ditching WhatsApp and switching over to Telegram without recognizing the potential danger involved.

So what should you do?

There are really only two options:
1) Stick with WhatsApp and continue to let them tap into the data that you’ve basically already been allowing them access to for the past four years.
Or
2) Completely boycott Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsft, and all social media platforms. Big tech uses your data to understand you better. Contrary to popular conspiracy theories, there likely isn’t some nefarious scheme to read all your texts, download all your photos, and ultimately clone your brain for the next generation of AI bionic beings.

One thing is certain. Hashem has more data on you than you can imagine.

Yaakov Langer is a digital marketer, co-founder and co-host of Meaningful People Podcast and co-founder of @YidWithSign.

MeaningfulPeoplePodcast.com

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

37 COMMENTS

  1. It’s a wake up call for all us to drop social media all together. Don’t mess up this opportunity! You will be a different person with out all those messages bothering you the whole day (and night)!

  2. The author is completely missing the point! The reason for switching is not because of “fear” or “panic” or because we have something to hide. It is because these companies profit off of us, stealthily and repeatedly invade our privacy, and then stifle any free speech that poses a risk to them and their oligarchy. People are awakened to this now and have decided it is time to stop feeding the Big Tech machine. Anyone trying to stop this diversification of power is either in cahoots with Big Tech or is on the buying end of the sale of people’s private information.

  3. @Curiosity the only one missing the point here is you! Big tech is the reason behind your success and you don’t even know it. Big tech uses data to create more accurate AI (artificial intelligence). Without that a lot of products and and data would not be in existence. The problem with big tech is that they have zero accountability and aren’t regulated, that needs to change.

  4. Telegram is terrible. Agreed.

    That does not discount the absolute truth that WhatsApp, instagram, Facebook, etc are also terrible.

    Being “a little less terrible” than the competition is no license to use WhatsApp, instagram or Facebook.

  5. Also don’t forget whats app was not started by big tech. If telegram gets big enough google will by them to compete with whats app. Your screwed either way.

  6. The above author makes no mention of the “Signal” app. Why not?
    Also, I agree with others. Part of the problem is “Big Tech” becoming to powerful! We must put our foot down and declare that this is unacceptable! People should drop all these accounts and find alternatives: Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp.
    It may be necessary in the future to protest Google as well if these don’t shape up.

  7. End to end encrypted means they can’t see anything I have on my phone. If it’s end to end encrypted then how are they getting any information to share with Facebook?

  8. Third option: Listen to gedolei Yisroel, get a kosher phone with a hechsher with no ‘social media’ whatsoever! Here in Eretz Yisroel EVERY single rav has banned ALL social media in the strictest terms. Why are American Jews different from other Jews????

  9. @yidwithsign- great point. But let us not kid ourselves that twitter provides access to any filth you want as well, yet all of our news sources and organizations have twitter handles… unfiltered Twitter can be a gateway for many teens just starting out…

  10. I’ve worked as a software engineer on teams which specifically work to get people’s data, and I am shocked at how susceptible people are to these rumors.

    1. Nearly every single website you visit has both google and Facebook trackers.
    2. The new WhatsApp policy isn’t vague at all, in fact, if people chose to read it instead of panic, they would realize that all it does is allow whatsapp business numbers to collect the same metrics and data that Facebook business does. It’s essentially to help businesses grow via social media, a necessity in these trying times.
    3. All private whatsapp messages and groups are still end to end encrypted, which means that they cannot be interpreted or read by anyone at Facebook.
    4. I’ve been a Telegram user for a long time. There’s a lot of very disgusting things on there, including channels that are for literal terrorism and call for the destruction of the Jewish nation. Signals privacy policy is no different than WhatsApp.

    We are going through a crazy time of censorship and we’re all worried, but it’s important to focus on things that truly matter, and not rumors.

  11. Curiosity is exactly right. If I didn’t know better (and I don’t) I would tell you this article is big tech promoted propaganda. The problem is not the opt in. The problem is Facebook owns Whatsapp. And we don’t want Facebook telling us what opinions are acceptable and what opinions are not, like we see them doing now. We don’t want to be blocked because of our political bent nor to we want warning labels appearing under our comments warning others that our position “is disputed.” Big Tech needs to be broken up BIG TIME! Social media companies have had a monopoly way too long as we see how they are abusing it. The opt-in issue was just really bad timing for Whatsapp and coincided with everything else going on. YWN should get with the program and move to Telegram (or Signal) fast! VIN is already there. (Parler too.)

  12. Curiousity, the author’s point still remains that the alternative that many people are choosing is dangerous. So if you don’t want Big Tech to bully you and you also don’t want to choose the other, unsafe option, then say bye-bye to social media. Not a bad solution at all and possibly Hashem’s way of coaxing us in that direction.

  13. There is a third option that the author fails to offer, use signal it doesn’t sell your information to anyone and is not owned by big tech.
    It’s extremely similar to WhatsApp and is a little bit better because groups can be much bigger.
    Plus it’s not “open” like telegram is.

    On another note,
    Facebook, other social media companies and big Data are surveillance services. there are many reasons that we would not want them to have our personal information as much as possible.

    The author mentions that Mark Zuckerberg said the reason they collect the information is to understand their users better.
    Now you have to understand the reason they want to understand their users is so they can sell them and their information to advertisers.
    Just because Facebook says that it can’t or won’t access your personal information doesn’t mean that’s true.

    Also keep in mind there’s a reason that most very technologically inclined people including people that work in companies like Facebook are very sensitive about their privacy online.

  14. THERE IS SOMETHING THAT SMELLS LIKE ROTTEN FISH WITH THIS ARTICLE.
    We know that YWN is invested in WhatsApp as are many many in the community , but to off the cuff and dismiss WARNING SIGNALS JUST BECAUSE OTHER PLATFORMS ARE PROMLEMARIC and so to JUST say ALLOW WhatsApp Twitter… just TAKE AWAY YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION, Habits, daily private and privacy activity and let WhatsApp do as a habitual pedefile has done in the past with or without out knowledge IS OK !!!! Because OTHER PLATFORMS ARE WORSE. It’s like saying to a abused wife get what’s coming, it’s ok. Because the next guy is even worse. IS ABSOLUTELY IRRESPONSIBLE.
    Because monopoly and monotizing personal information is a just the beginning to this whole thing.
    ARtificial intelligence habit learning tools PLUS shearing that information with NSA, US GOV. Or any government for the highest price I THINK IS GIVING THESE GUYS A LITTLE TOO MUCH POWER.
    Are we being groomed to be China with credit ratings?
    One thing is clear the globalization and control of civilization as we know it is out in open.
    THE BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING AND BEGINS TO CONTROL.
    WE CAN PRETEND THAT HE IS BENEVOLENT AND FOOL OURSELVES or we can find other sources and solutions.
    ONE THING I CLEAR THE OPTION THAT YWN IS OFFERING IS NOT I REPEAT IS NOT SUSTAINABLE.

  15. There was nearly an insurrection of the US democracy caused and exacerbated by a lunatic using social media to spread falseness and incite violence. Facebook and Twitter did the right thing for the safety of this government. This man (if you can even call him that) was and continues to be a menace to society. Continuing to aid and abet him is insanity fueled by delusion.

  16. Curiosity
    The author , in my opinion is not missing the point. Fact is Big tech knows exactly what we are doing, but we Yidden have a different problem here. We cannot really join platforms which are entirely free speech. Anti semitism, pornography, drugs, you name it, are all accessible within free speech platforms. Perhaps Shully is right!

  17. Because of COVID-19 and associated edicts, we now depend more on electronic communications. Electronic conduits are becoming less available and secure by the day because of politically motivated actions by their owners (not to mention snooping by various hackers and governments). Should we really accept what such owners tell us about their operations?

  18. Telegram is terrible > WhatsApp is less bad > Signal is the best

    There has been a lot of talk about why to not go to Telegram – I agree. Stay away.

    However, I disagree with the defense of WhatsApp – Two points:

    1) Distraction – WhatsApp already forced Facebook style “statuses” on us. They are planning payments and shopping etc. If you were just looking for advanced SMS, group texting, audio calls, video messaging, etc. Then Signal is more “kosher” and will simplify your life

    2) Monopolies are bad – it is getting harder and harder to opt-out of Big Tech services and for some things (like Google and Apple) it is probably too late. They hopefully will not abuse their power too much and it is true that they are interested in making money, not evil schemes. Sometimes though they push their (liberal) agenda by doing things like censoring the news according to their ethical standards.

    If we can opt-out of Facebook owned WhatsApp and move to a non-profit and privacy focused alternative isn’t it worth it?

  19. Here is the difference between the old TOS and the new one. In a nutshell, now you can’t opt-out. And they are sharing EVERYTHING they learn about you.

    https://www.slashgear.com/whatsapp-changes-terms-of-service-things-to-know-and-better-alternatives-10654305/
    ” now the service will share data with the parent company including location data, battery level, IMEI number, mobile network, and even more. Not only this, the app will share information to the parent company Facebook about the groups you are participating in, real-time status, profile photo or even the data about your online status on the app. If that wasn’t enough, WhatsApp has a separate section in the new policy by the name “Transactions and Payments data.” If you’ve already assumed, then let us tell you for the sake of it – the information of your payments made through the app will also be stored. Facebook claims to use this just for analysis purpose and let’s hope it stay that way – in the worst-case scenario.”

  20. This author missed a chunk of information while researching. Signal is end-to-end encrypted using open source protocols. It’s *impossible* for Signal to see the content of your messages. (Telegram uses some E2E encryption IF you turn it on, and its proprietary rather then open source tested technology). Furthermore, Signal’s encryption doesn’t allow it to be backed up to iCloud as plain text. And furthermore, Signal while technically under Twitter, is owned by a non-profit that runs off donations. There is no corporation here to swoop it and suddenly dictate how these protocols should work. Don’t forget the co-creator of Whatsapp told us to ditch it 2 years ago…. (Despite all this I don’t think anyone has to ditch Whatsapp, especially if theyre using other typical online services. But you should at least install Signal)

  21. I do not like this article, and I’m not sure why a digital marketer – someone who’s company likely benefits from the personal information harvested by the likes of Facebook – is given the role of advising us of what software to choose.

    First, the author gives a one sentence brush-off of Signal as an alternative to Facebook’s WhatsApp that is false and misleading. The privacy policies of Signal and WhatsApp are extremely different. Signal is open source, which means anyone can inspect the code and see what is going on. It is funded by donations and non-profit organizations, not through harvesting of users’ personal data to sell to third parties. And while both use similar encryption protocols for the messages themselves, WhatsApp shares all of the metadata – who we’re messaging, when we’re messaging them, how many times and how long we message them, our contacts, our locations, etc., whereas Signal shares NOTHING. And Signal does not have the dangerous features rightfully brought up with regard to Telegram. The main limitation of Signal is that few people use it. And that appears to be changing with the bad press WhatsApp has received of late. That is a good thing. Why is the author opposed to it?

    Second, the author advocates surrender to the big tech companies and just carrying on as usual because they are already collecting so much of our data. This type of apathy is why these companies can mine our personal information with abandon and are profiting at our expense by selling that personal information to others and even manipulating our emotions and what we see. Facebook is perhaps the most egregious abuser of our data, so it is certainly reasonable for someone to want to limit what is shared with that company, even if they use an iPhone (Apple) or Android (Google). Also, by demanding privacy, openness, and respect of our personal data, we can put pressure on the tech companies to build better products all around.

    So should we switch from WhatsApp to Signal? Short answer yes, long answer yes.

  22. Im sorry but this author clearly has no idea what they talking about when it comes to understanding the dangers with facebooks new policies for whatsapp and their intent with data mining (i.e. analyzing your chats, analyzing who you are talking to and what you are talking about.

    Telegram may not be the better option but signal is a fantastic one, these “authors” are clearly people who built platforms using whatsapp and simply do not want people leaving en mass because they will no longer be able to reach the same number of people.

    This is a terrible article that will send people straight back into the belly of the beast, don’t come crying when individual people start getting banned from society because facebook identifies speech they dont like and starts doxing people and ruining their lives.

  23. Yaakov and Nachi are amazing and unbelievable. I look forward to my daily meaningful minute emails as well as the interviews they do with meaningful people. The interviews have been amazing so far.

    I think that if people are looking to leave WhatsApp, he is correct about it hitting at the same time however I would like to add one more thing to that and that is that WhatsApp is owned by Facebook. If you are concerned, upset, disappointed, or anything else related to those words about Facebook stifling free speech due to their government protection, Instagram is also owned by Facebook. So if that’s the case, don’t use Instagram either.

    I am generally speaking not one who runs around saying boycott companies but in the event anyone is having any reservations about being on any particular platform and you have a problem with the free speech aspect, Instagram is not for you.

  24. The Yeshiva World is full of hate and Lashon Hara against other yidden that don’t don’t fit “The Yeshiva World News” ideology. While Twitter and Facebook do not follow the rules of the Torah. YWN leadership are supposed to be following the Torah and in fact do remove or put notes on comments that rebuke their Lashon Hara or alternative “facts” as I and many others have came to realize. The thirst for controversy and revenue has blinded the editors of this publication and others.

  25. This article is a sad testimony to the blindness of the failing YWN. People are leaving because Facebook and other tech giants are stifling free speech and yes, slowly but surely moving towards breaching our privacy. The motto is that it is for our safety. It is no coincidence that their new privacy policy was announced right after Biden was certified as president elect. Suddenly we witnessed an unabashed attack on free speech from all tech giants. They made it their job to dictate to the masses what to think and who to believe. And Yeshivah world has been doing a great job playing along. Any opinion that goes against the globalist agenda is a crazy “conspiracy theory”. Any person who has any integrity should not support the companies that are out to destroy all the values America was build on pervert morality and strip us from our God given rights.

  26. Firstly, you’re right about telegram. It’s horrific and open to all kinds of groups and negative types. But you’re also not entirely write about WhatsApp. It would be far better if you were to detail the changes. There will be encryption of a weaker nature, which can be broken through, AND most importantly, the new T&C state that FB will have access to all the data of people listed in your phone, and various types of images which will enable Business Whatsapp. The end goal is to introduce a kind of shopping app to make purchases direct via whatsapp, initially via whatsappweb and later thru FB, competing or in collusion with amazon, that is yet unclear, with FB tracking what you buy, where, when, how frequently, and more. You also do not mention the difference in camera function in android and iphone: the former, if a photo is taken in the whatsapp app itself, leaves a traceable image and appended data, whereas for the latter there is no direct link between the camera in your cellphone, and the whatsapp message to which you append the image (share via whatsapp). Additionally, you do not mention much about SIGNAL, which is a true whatsapp replacement, especially since it’s being guided by a former whatsapp founder who left FB precisely bc of these privacy issues. So no, we have not been sharing all our info since 2016, and we have also had an opt-out option. Now there will NOT be an opt-out option. Here is one of a number of articles relating to the whatsapp issue, where I’ve purposely split the word “com” to enable it to be posted here. Take note especially of paras 7 and 11. https://www.theguardian.co m/commentisfree/2018/may/06/whatsapp-founder-sends-facebook-users-coded-message?fbclid=IwAR1ENN5DrJmyMkhgGw9Lo9NyTGKFPvlXoayyZnXayJ0IIu29urEpRC7NrRg There are now a growing number of explanatory articles on what the new Terms going into effect on Feb 8th imply, and yet there are phrases in those terms that no one in FB wishes to explain, such as : QTE Data collected includes “battery level, signal strength, app version, browser information, mobile network, connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP), language and time zone, IP address, device operations information, and identifiers (including identifiers unique to Facebook Company Products associated with the same device or account.)” UQTE. What exactly are “identifiers unique to…. ” etc? Well, that’s data of everyone in yr phone, among other things, as well as where you are at any time, more. I would suggest you look into the Business WhatsApp area more deeply and discover the intentions behind its launch. I’d also strongly suggest you advise people to seriously consider switching to SIGNAL, which has a phone and desktop app. You will find more info on FaceBook Pay in this article when you scroll down. Worth reading the whole thing and be very wary: https://news.sky.co m/story/whatsapp-is-updating-its-privacy-rules-heres-what-you-need-to-know-12185162 (Note that I split the word ‘com’ again to enable posting here. ) The information streaming through FB-Pay will enable FB to present ads of items of similar interest to you, and images you photo direct in WhatsApp may be decipherable for the same purposes. And THAT is what the noise is all about. TOO MUCH POWER in one weensy pair of hands.

  27. To everyone telling me the author is right because Telegram is worse than Whatsapp – I switched to Signal. None of the filth of Telegram, and it’s open-source (can’t be controlled) and not-for-profit (so you are not their product).

  28. Sorry to say but the author does not address the problem nor the answer properly as the comments above have mentioned it. Here is a link to a picture that should be shared to the community to prevent kids and adults alike using the Telegram app as it poses MANY dangers. And whatsapp should be taught a lesson and freedom and privacy should be ownership of the people.
    Please share this important notice, approved by Rabbonim, to your circles . It’s Hebrew, English and French

    Google photos:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/NJ61Rcvy6XkH9D4W9
    Google Drive:
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fJoaD4Tnmt8nY1GQnBkjcKGLqi1FCEv2/view?usp=sharing

  29. This article is terriblle. The author clearly put little effort into thinking this through.

    The problem with whatsapp is that #1 if you still believe Mark Zuckerberg , you are an idiot, all your messages are scanned and sold.
    The other major problem is the complete domination of Facebook and big tech to
    Control and change the course of this country. Its probably too late , but telegram is far better then whatsapp, regardless of what “schmutz” is there.
    I hope the author retracts his damaging article for anyone unintelligiantly listens to this nonsense.

  30. I use WhatsApp for community messaging, but I don’t have a Facebook account. What use is any collected information for Facebook’s advertisers?

  31. to conclude:
    1. FB will have access to your number and whatsapp contacts, not conversations
    2. FB is evil
    3. we should all move to Signal end of story
    4. These messaging apps are trivial to write, all we need is 1 android developer, iphone developer, backend programmer who can also be in charge of hosting, for someone who does it, it’s not complicated

  32. So everyone moves to Telegram, until we find out that Telegram is bought by Facebook.

    So everyone moves to Signal, until we find out that Signal was hacked by Russia.

    There is no way to get out of this technology privacy mess.

    And anyone who thinks that going to Signal or Telegram is a privacy perfect move doesnt understand technology.