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Moving Away from WhatsApp-What Are Your Options?

In early 2021, Facebook-owned WhatsApp began delivering new terms to its 2 billion users, which had to be accepted to continue the use of the popular messaging application. This triggered an outcry among technology experts, privacy advocates, entrepreneurs, and even governments around the globe, encouraging users to switch to other messaging applications.

While WhatsApp insists that the change in terms of use help users benefit from better integration with other Facebook companies, it has opened a can of worms in terms of the trust that large technology companies, including Facebook, are losing steadily. In this article, let us explore the implications of the new WhatsApp privacy rules and the options WhatsApp users have for migrating their accounts.

What Does the New WhatsApp Term and Privacy Policy Mean?

While there is a difference in the text for WhatsApp users across different countries or regions, with this privacy policy update, WhatsApp is essentially making sharing of metadata mandatory, which was previously optional for users. This metadata could include details such as the phone’s unique identifier number, contact lists, location, activities, usage, and other data. This data can be used by Facebook for serving targeted content and help businesses using WhatsApp business features take advantage of Facebook hosted services to store and manage their WhatsApp chats with customers.

How Do the New WhatsApp Terms Affect My Privacy?

While Will Cathcart, Head of WhatsApp at Facebook has stated in a tweet, “It’s important for us to be clear this update describes business communication and does not change WhatsApp’s data sharing practices with Facebook. It does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family wherever they are in the world.”, it is of little consolation to users to discover that their private data would be exploited to further the business interests of Facebook. Understandably several users and even businesses have switched from WhatsApp as their preferred communication platform.

What Are the Alternatives for WhatsApp?

At a time when privacy has become the paramount consideration for communication platforms, here are some alternatives to WhatsApp.

Telegram

Telegram had been steadily rising as a competitor of WhatsApp for several months before the policy change. The platform is quickly approaching 500 million users and has several unique features, particularly in terms of privacy, that make it one of the strongest contenders as a replacement for WhatsApp. Of these, the most notable is the fact that users do not have to provide their phone number for using the app. The company states that the user detail it collects is not used for ads. Additionally, as a cloud-native solution, unlike WhatsApp, it can be used on several devices. The downside is that anyone who has access to Telegram’s servers can read the user’s chats.

Signal

Co-incidentally, the loss for WhatsApp has become the gain for Signal, an open-source communication platform by WhatsApp co-founder, Brian Acton. A terse tweet, “Use Signal”, by the world’s current richest person Elon Musk saw a massive spike in the sign-ups for the app eventually leading to the crash of its servers. Not only does the application support end-to-end encryption of all features, but it also uses truncated cryptographically hashed phone numbers for contact discovery, names and other details are neither transmitted nor stored on its servers, and users can implement other security features such as screen security, account, and registration PINs, and so on.

The downside is that it allows only P2P backup transfer on iOS, and data on Android devices have to be manually backed up. Also, WhatsApp users are likely to miss built-in animated emojis, which can, however, be imported into the application.

Wire

Wire is also an open-source communication platform that is protected by European privacy laws. Skype’s co-founder Janus Friis has made significant contributions to the development of the product. Not only is communication using Wire encrypted end-to-end, but also each message gets new encryption keys, so that impact is minimal even if is compromised. There is a feature to verify each participant’s device fingerprint to enhance security.

For all the security features that it offers, many users have complained that Wire leaves a lot to be desired in terms of usability.

Microsoft Teams

Few organizations take security and privacy as seriously as Microsoft. Microsoft Teams specifies privacy commitments that not many competitors can match. Microsoft confirms that Teams data is not used for serving ads. They also do not track user’s actions in Teams meetings, and data is deleted at the expiration of the subscription. Customer data can be accessed at any time, and Microsoft provides transparency reports in the Transparency Hub, where they detail how they have historically responded to third-party requests for data.

Apps4Rent Can Help with WhatsApp to Teams Migration

While many of the WhatsApp alternatives are open-source and free, they are not as well established as Microsoft Teams and are largely untested in terms of privacy and scalability. While Microsoft Teams has a free version, some of the aforementioned features are missing from it.

When security and privacy are at stake, opting for paid plans could well be the right approach. Microsoft Teams in Microsoft 365/ Office 365 plans are a complete collaboration platform that offers features far superior to what WhatsApp can offer. As a Tier 1 Microsoft CSP, Apps4Rent can provide licenses for Microsoft 365/ Office 365 plans and configure Teams and other applications based on user requirements. Contact our Microsoft certified consultants available 24/7 via phone, chat, and email for assistance.

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