WhatsApp privacy changes could turn off Saudi users: Cybersecurity experts

A controversial new WhatsApp privacy policy could see many Saudi users switch off to the Kingdom’s favorite instant messaging app, cybersecurity experts claim.

From Feb. 8, users of the popular mobile social media platform will no longer be able to access the service unless they have accepted the update and will be forced to delete their accounts.

Under the terms of the new policy, Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, will be able to collect users’ data from the app such as their phone number, email address, contacts, location, device ID, user ID, advertising data, purchase history, product interaction, payment info, crash, performance, and other diagnostic data, customer support, and metadata.

As a result, some Saudi WhatsApp users said they were now considering other similar messaging app options such as Telegram, and Signal.

Telegram only collects a user’s name, phone number, contacts, and user ID, while Signal just requires a mobile phone number for registration with no link to the individual’s identity.

Saudi cybersecurity expert, Faisal Alomran, told Arab News: “Facebook applications are known for collecting too much personal information about their users, allegedly for the purpose of delivering better user content experiences.

“However, the concern of data privacy is growing on normal users as they become more aware of the consequences of their private data being leaked,” he said.

Alomran added that from a cybersecurity point of view, while the likelihood of breaching a company such as Facebook was low, the impact if it happened would be “very high” as data gathered by hackers would expose end-user private information.

“Signal is widely considered to be one of the best applications when it comes to data privacy, as it claims to only collect the phone number for user registration,” he said.

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