Cloud storage platform pCloud recently released a report based on data collated from the Apple App Store privacy labels displayed in the latest iOS builds. The research indicated that Instagram was the worst offender when it comes to sharing user data with third-parties or for marketing purposes, while Facebook was second.
The report said Instagram shares 79% of user data with other companies, and uses 86% of this data for its own marketing purposes, whileFacebook shares 56% of data with other companies and collects the same amount of data for marketing as Instagram. Incidentally, WhatsApp did not feature among the top 50 list of the most invasive apps. The data shared with third-party partners includes details about purchases made after clicking on Instagram or Facebook ads, other personal data that the platforms scrape based on user activity as well as browsing history through cookies and other trackers.
“With over one billion monthly active users it’s worrying that Instagram is a hub for sharing such a high amount of its unknowing users’ data,” pCloud said.
Under the new terms and conditions, which will go into effect from May 15, 2021, WhatsApp would share transaction data, mobile device information, IP addresses, and other data on how users interact with businesses on WhatsApp and with Facebook group companies, including Instagram. While this seems standard in the world of massive tech behemoths who have hands in multiple pies, the real problem in the case of WhatsApp is as the policy says — it’s their way or highway, since there is no way for users to opt-out of this policy.
Amid the raging controversy with millions joining WhatsApp rivals Signal and Telegram, the Indian government filed a counter-affidavit in the Delhi High Court last week, looking to restrain WhatsApp from rolling out the controversial update, or give users an opt out option. In the lawsuit ‘Dr Seema Singh v. Union Of India’, the court had last month sought responses from the central government. The government responded that pending the passing of the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the rules made under it, constitute the data protection regime in the country, which WhatsApp would be violating with its new policy.
And that’s not even accounting for the data shared by the platform with other Facebook companies, who may in turn use it for monetisation or for marketing purposes as well. This was the original integrated platform vision first floated by Mark Zuckerberg in January 2019, when he hinted that Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp will soon grow from the same fountain of data. But Zuckerberg and Facebook will first have to contend with the Indian government and various internet rights groups that are looking to fight off the WhatsApp ‘privacy’ policy.