Online privacy has become an increasingly important topic in the tech world. Between frequent security breaches and shady data mining practices, the everyday user is constantly inundated with privacy concerns, no matter where they are on the web.
However, some serious backlash has forced the company to temporarily reconsider. Between petitions, think-pieces, and eccentric entrepreneurs speaking out against the new update, WhatsApp decided to push the deadline back to May 15th.
“For a short time, these users will be able to receive calls and notifications, but will not be able to read or send messages from the app.”
The note specified that the “short time” in question will last a few weeks, after which the users will be designated as “inactive users.” According to the WhatsApp FAQ page, inactive users are “generally deleted after 120 days of inactivity.”
This all seems dramatic enough that it could seriously ruffle some feathers, but will it be enough to persuade the app's 2 billion worldwide users to jump ship?
How do people feel about online privacy?
To say the world is frustrated with tech companies and their inability to get the whole privacy thing right would be an understatement. WhatsApp and Facebook are just two in a long line of organizations that have lost the public's trust as far as keeping data safe from themselves and nefarious actors.
In fact, according to research from Pew Research Center, more than half of Americans don't trust social media sites to protect their data online.
This lack of trust has manifested in some interesting ways, particularly in recent months. For one, privacy-centric messaging apps, like Telegram and Signal, have become exceedingly popular, with both boasting millions of new users. Additionally, generally secure apps like DuckDuckGo are also having a moment, with the privacy-focused search engine hitting 100 million daily searches just a month ago. Furthermore, tools like password managers and VPNs continue to be quite popular, showcasing the increasing focus on privacy throughout the tech world.
Suffice it to say, WhatsApp could very easily see an exodus of users once these measures are firmly planted this spring. Still, the online world is already riddled with privacy loopholes and security snafus. And while the few that take security seriously may move on from the popular messaging app, the complacent masses — whose data is already flowing freely throughout the worldwide web — will likely take the apathetic path and just agree.