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WhatsApp Softens Approach to Privacy Policy Update Amid Rising Pressure from Indian Regulators

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It seems that WhatsApp’s second attempt to implement its new privacy policy update isn’t going much better than the first – and now, the company appears to have watered down the change entirely, as it seeks to placate concerns around data sharing between WhatsApp and Facebook.

A re-cap of the situation – back in January, WhatsApp announced a coming update to its privacy terms which would mean that some data from people’s interactions with businesses within WhatsApp could be shared with parent company Facebook. At no point was people’s personal messaging information or interaction data in WhatsApp, which is end-to-end encrypted, set to be shared between the two companies, but either way, the announcement sparked a major backlash, which saw millions of people downloading alternative messaging apps like Signal and Telegram in an attempt to move away from the app.

The user response must have been significant, because two weeks after the initial announcement, WhatsApp decided to delay the change in order to give the company more time to explain the update, and to better prepare users for what was happening. 

Then, early last month, WhatsApp started showing users in-app alerts once again, notifying them of the coming change, though with clarified wording and more specific explainers.

WhatsApp update

WhatsApp had clearly hoped that these more specific prompts would alleviate concerns, but evidently, they did not.

Last month, the Indian Government called on the messaging giant to withdraw the change entirely, citing concerns about data sharing, while German regulators also called for an EU-wide ban on the update, questioning the implications of its new data-sharing processes.

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India is a particularly significant concern for Facebook in this respect, with the company planning for major expansion in the region, which is also home to WhatsApp’s largest single-nation user base (530+ million users).

But Facebook needs to implement the update to take the next steps forward with its WhatsApp monetization plans, so it subsequently launched its own counter legal action against the Indian Government last week in order to push through the change.

Which is not good for Facebook’s longer-term prospects in the region. Which is why this new update makes some sense.

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Last week, WhatsApp made a change to the wording of the terms around its coming update, which effectively eliminates any form of user penalty for not accepting the change.

When WhatsApp announced its second attempt at rolling out the change, it explained that:

After a period of several weeks, the [privacy policy update] reminder people receive will eventually become persistent. At that time, you’ll encounter limited functionality on WhatsApp until you accept the updates. This will not happen to all users at the same time.”

Those limitations, which would escalate over time, were set to include:

  • Inability to access your chat list
  • Removal of the ability to receive incoming calls or notifications
  • Eventually, WhatsApp “will stop sending messages and calls to your phone”

But now, WhatsApp is removing these penalties entirely.

In the newly worded explainer, WhatsApp says that:

“Considering the majority of users who have seen the update have accepted, we’ll continue to display a notification in WhatsApp providing more information about the update and reminding those who haven’t had a chance to do so to review and accept. We currently have no plans for these reminders to become persistent and to limit the functionality of the app.”

So no penalties for not accepting. If you don’t agree, you don’t have to accept the new terms, and there will be no impact on your account.

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Which is a significant step back – and maybe, that’ll be enough to placate Indian officials and avoid further tensions that could derail Facebook’s future plans in the region. 

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“There will also be other opportunities for those who haven’t accepted the updates to do so directly in the app. For example, when someone reregisters for WhatsApp or if someone wants to use a feature that’s related to this update for the first time.”

So WhatsApp has quietly watered down its potential penalties to avoid further conflicts, though only after getting ‘the majority of users’ to accept its new terms under threat of app deactivation.

Will that be enough to alleviate all concerns – and will regulators and officials be satisfied with Facebook’s business practices in this respect, in essentially using bully tactics, even if they subsequently walked them back?

It’s an interesting implementation, which underlines the rising tension between online platforms and various government authorities over the use of user data, which looks set to remain a key point of contention for the immediate future at least.

But for now, WhatsApp users will not be obligated to accept the new policy. Until, at some stage, they are.

Which could be the next point of conflict for the app.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Elon Musk’s Team Asks for More Data to Complete Assessment of Twitter Bots

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Elon Musk's Team Asks for More Data to Complete Assessment of Twitter Bots

Okay, let’s just check in on the latest with the Twitter/Elon Musk takeover saga, and where things are placed to close out the week.

According to the latest reports, Musk’s team recently asked Twitter for more tweet info, in order to help it make an accurate assessment of bot activity in the app. This comes after Musk questioned Twitter’s claim that bots and fake accounts make up only 5% of its active user base, and said that his Twitter takeover deal could not go ahead unless Twitter could produce more evidence to support this figure.

Which Twitter did, by providing Musk with access to its ‘full firehose’ of tweets over a given period, which it shared with Musk’s team back on June 8th. Musk’s group has now had that data for a couple of weeks, but this week, it said that this info is not enough to go on, and that it needs even more insight from Twitter to make its judgment.

And after initially resisting calls for more data access, Twitter has now reportedly relented and handed over more tweet data access to Musk’s team.

Which may or may not be a concern, depending on how you see it.

In its initial data dump, Twitter reportedly gave Musk’s team info on:

  • Total user tweets (within a given time period)
  • Data on which devices were used

As noted, Musk’s team says that this has not provided it with the insight that it needs to conduct an accurate analysis of potential bot activity, so Twitter has now provided Musk with more ‘real-time API data’.

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It’s not clear whether that means that Twitter has provided everything that its API systems can provide, but that could mean that Musk’s team can now access:

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  • Real-time info on tweet text and visual elements/attachments
  • Data on retweets, replies, and quote Tweets for each
  • Data on tweet author, mentioned users, tagged locations, hashtag and cashtag symbols, etc
  • Date, time, location, device info

That should satisfy any analytical needs to uncover potential bot trends, and get a better handle on Twitter’s bot problem, though it also means that Musk has all your tweet info – which, again, it’s worth noting, Twitter up till now had been hesitant to provide.

I’m sure it’s fine. Musk’s team is beholden to disclosure laws around such, so it’s not like they can do anything much with that info anyway, in a legal sense. But the idea that the sometimes erratic Elon Musk now has all the tweets could be a little concerning for some.

But Twitter likely had to provide what it can, and if Musk is going to become CEO of the app soon anyway, he’s going to have access to all of that data either way.

But still, given Musk and Co’s past history of undermining and attacking critics, sacking trouble maker employees and digging up potential dirt on rivals, it sits a little uneasy.

Should be fine. No problems – no need to go deleting all your DMs (which are likely not included in the data that Twitter has provided at this stage).

According to reports, Musk’s team says that it now has the info it needs to make its assessment of bot activity, which should see the deal move forward (or not) sometime soon.

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Of course, no one knows what exactly is going to happen next, and whether Musk’s team will look to renegotiate, or even back out of the deal entirely as a result of its bot analysis. But it does seem like, one way or another, Musk will be forced to go ahead with the $44 billion transaction, with Twitter’s past bot reporting methodology already accepted by the SEC, giving it legal grounding to argue that it’s acted in good faith, regardless of what Musk’s team finds.

The next steps then, according to Musk, would be securing debt financing and gaining Twitter shareholder approval, clearing the last hurdles for Musk to change the app’s name to ‘Telsla Social’, and add a million references to ‘420’ into the platforms various terms and conditions.

Because of the memes, because weed jokes are still funny to the richest man in the world – because he vacillates between inspired genius and a massive nerd who now gets to play out some fantasy of being cool.

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Or something. Who knows what goes on in Elon Musk’s head – which is also why most are hesitant to bet against him, as nobody knows if and how he might be able to fix Twitter, and whether this is a great investment or a massive disaster.

It seems like we may soon find out. Maybe. Who knows. Either way, the memes should be great.



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