WhatsApp vs Signal vs Telegram vs Facebook – The data apps collect about you

WhatsApp has faced global backlash after publishing an addendum to its privacy policy, which users will be required to accept by 8 February 2021 to continue using the application.

Among the changes to WhatsApp’s terms of service and privacy policy is a clause that allows Facebook to share data from WhatsApp across its other products.

“As part of the Facebook family of companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, this family of companies. We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings,” WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy states.

“This includes helping improve infrastructure and delivery systems, understanding how our Services or theirs are used, securing systems, and fighting spam, abuse, or infringement activities.”

Facebook has since clarified that users will not be mandated to share their personal data, adding that these changes were implemented mainly for businesses.

“There will be no change in data sharing with Facebook for non-business chats and account information, and with regard to business messaging, we are not mandating users to share data,” the company said.

“As we’ve said previously, we are updating our terms of service and privacy policy as we work to make WhatsApp a great way to get answers or help from a business. We’re providing users with ample notice to review the changes.”

App data collection

Many users have become concerned about the personal data collected by WhatsApp and other applications following this change.

The extent of personal data collection each mobile app conducts has now been made clear thanks to Apple’s new Privacy Labels, which it introduced to its App Store last month.

This feature provides a comprehensive and accessible overview of personal data collection on each application’s store page – removing the need to scour privacy policies and terms of service documents for an overview of what data you are giving to the services you use.

Facebook and WhatsApp collect a significant amount of personal data from users, and this is especially apparent when compared with competing applications.

Telegram, which purports to offer greater privacy as well as end-to-end encryption, collects far less personal data.

Another privacy-focused messaging app that has been touted as a competitor to WhatsApp is Signal – which collects no personal information and runs on an open-source encryption framework, with your messages and data stored locally.

To demonstrate the differences in personal data collection between these different services, we have listed how these services broadly handle user data according to Apple’s Privacy labels in the infographic below.

Detailed information for each app’s privacy settings is available on the Apple App Store.

What data each app collects about you

A comparison of the data apps collect about you

Data Linked to You Collected by Apps
Data linked to you Facebook WhatsApp Telegram Signal
Contact Info Yes Yes Yes
Contacts Yes Yes Yes
Identifiers Yes Yes Yes
Purchases Yes Yes
Financial Info Yes Yes
Location Yes Yes
User Content Yes Yes
Usage Data Yes Yes
Diagnostics Yes Yes
Health and Fitness Yes
Search History Yes
Browsing History Yes
Sensitive Info Yes
Other Data Yes

Now read: Inside South Africa’s Cybersecurity Hub

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WhatsApp vs Signal vs Telegram vs Facebook – The data apps collect about you