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Well, not anymore. WhatsApp will continue to display the popup with the same frequency (on my phone, it appears about once a day). Still, now it says that “[…] users who have not accepted the update will have the opportunity to do so directly in the app when registering again with WhatsApp or using a feature related to this update for the first time”. When you change your cell phone, you will have to give in to continue using WhatsApp.
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Despite this, WhatsApp’s stance change can be considered a victory for users against the Big Tech. A victory built by many: people like you and me, NGOs that defend privacy, and countries where WhatsApp is the most popular digital means of communication.
On the other hand, governments around the world pressured WhatsApp and demanded explanations. In Latin America, Brazil and Argentina managed to get WhatsApp deadline extensions for those users who did not accept the new terms until May 15th.
In addition to disrupting the debate, the misunderstanding reveals the widespread ignorance about the tools we use on a daily basis and explains why common and questionable practices of companies like Facebook are executed with stealthiness, buried in the legality of adhesion contracts, and presented superficially. They look as bad as they are when put under the spotlight.
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Not that the proposed changes—the real ones—are not bad. As explained by LABS before, they open a loophole in the hitherto mandatory end-to-end encryption. When the user chats with a company that outsources the management of their WhatsApp communications, such conversations may be seen and processed by those third parties.
There are other battles underway against Big Techs on the product and service front, such as Google’s proposal to replace third-party cookies in Chrome with “FLoC” technology, and, in the US, Amazon’s Sidewalk project, which will transform the brand’s products, such as the Echo speakers, on public Wi-Fi repeaters by default. The fight goes on, my friends.
Translated by Fabiane Ziolla Menezes