The time has come. Facebook has not made the purchase of Whatsapp without having a clear business plan on how to monetize its platform, whose business model has shown a clear interest in targeted advertising.

Although it was reported in the media that, in order to make this acquisition profitable, it was likely that Whatsapp would start charging a subscription service to continue using the service that until today has been free, the reality shows us that Facebook’s strategy is still “that when you do not pay for a service, the product is you”.

Many Whatsapp users around the world, omitting residents of the European Union who are backed by the pioneering law on personal data protection, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), have shown their astonishment and disapproval at the ambitious plans of “control” and surveillance that the Facebook conglomerate of companies places on its users.

Data Protection Principles

The first obligatory questions that all WhatsApp users should ask themselves are:

Does the offering of digital communication services justify the level of surveillance and invasion of privacy resulting from Facebook’s updated terms and conditions?

Is it really necessary to collect this amount of data in order to access a communication platform such as WhatsApp and Facebook?

There is a reason why residents of the European Union are protected against these possible abuses by large technology companies, where the European Parliament has been clear in its pronouncement that any processing of personal data must comply with the following principles:

  • Adequate.
  • Effective
  • Necessary.
  • Proportional.

It is difficult for a company like WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) to justify to the European Parliament that the request for information included in the new terms and conditions comply with each and every one of these principles of personal data protection. Simply for any user, everything seems to indicate that such a level of surveillance is not necessary, nor is it proportionate.

What can we do about it?

The most important thing, far from migrating to another instant messaging platform, should be to demand from each of our competent authorities (INAI), as in the case of Mexico, to guarantee the respect and the right to privacy by these large technology companies. For example, in Mexico, there has not been any kind of pronouncement by the authorities responsible for the protection of personal data in the face of these possible abuses, not even to initiate a possible investigation, not to mention the need to include in the conversation bodies responsible for ensuring healthy competition (COFECE).

In other words, we can migrate platforms, yes, but that does not solve the root of the problem and only represents a short-term alternative that does not prevent the fundamental risks to the protection of human rights, and only postpones a conversation that needs to begin to be generated with the corresponding authorities.

We have two options in our hands: (i) simply migrate to another platform, or (ii) start the conversation and demand that our authorities hold technology companies accountable in terms of personal data protection and market dominance, to ensure that the law is obeyed and citizens’ right to privacy is respected.