WhatsApp, the messaging application that Facebook acquired last year for $16 bn, claims more than a billion mobile downloads, more than 450 million active business and consumer users, and has more than a million users joining every day. But it earns abysmal marks concerning the privacy of all those enthusiastic users, says the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
In all, the service earned just one star in this year’s ‘Who Has Your Back’ report. This is WhatsApp’s first year in the roundup, and although EFF gave the company a full year to prepare for its inclusion, it has adopted none of the best practices that EFF identified when it comes to privacy—even if those best practices may not be strictly applicable given the company’s data stewardship approach.
Its transgressions in EFF’s eyes are myriad:
- WhatsApp does not publicly require a warrant before giving content to law enforcement.
- It doesn’t publish a transparency report or a law enforcement guide.
- It doesn’t publish information about its data retention policies, including retention of IP addresses and deleted content.
WhatsApp does however have a pro-user public policy to oppose backdoors. In a public, official written format, WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook opposes the compelled inclusion of deliberate security weaknesses—i.e., introducing intentional vulnerabilities into secure products for the government’s use
On behalf of itself as well as WhatsApp, Facebook signed a coalition letter organized by the Open Technology Institute, which stated: “We appreciate the steps that WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook has taken to stand by its users, but there is room for WhatsApp to improve,” the EFF said in its report.
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