Boycott, migrate, delete, restrict permissions: global consumers really have the power to make or break any high-handed corporation, regardless of size.

Have you heard about Facebook’s latest move to monetize their acquired property—WhatsApp messenger? Millions of people have reacted to their poorly-worded notification to WhatsApp users, resulting in continuing mass migration to other messengers such as Telegram and Signal.

Let us get some undeniable facts out of the way first:

  1. Nothing is truly free, and, unfortunately, the current business model for free services such as WhatsApp means that, essentially, we pay for with our usage and personal data. According to a s senior researcher, Anna Larkina from Kaspersky, social networks, some messengers and search engines make money off of advertising, and the more personalized that advertising is, the better. In fact, Facebook and other companies have been doing this through its services for the past few years. Like it or not, “if you’re not paying for it, you become the product” that Facebook sells to its corporate clients.
  2. Despite its unpopular non-consultative unilateral decision, Facebook has been transparent about its policy intentions in regions where data privacy laws allow such behavior. Aside from its high-handed, poor and insensitive communications of the policy, the firm is now on tenterhooks because it has published clarifications and reassured people that message content continues to be private: only communications involving WhatsApp Business chats and anonymized account usage patterns (such as where you frequent, who you message often, relationship maps and other metadata linked to your phone number) will be shared out. It has even extended the date of its rollout of the policy.
  3. Nothing is indispensable: if Facebook has displeased you, stop or reduce usage of its products, with no other reason than to show tech monopolies the power of social unity. The same goes for any alternatives you choose to adopt for your daily work and personal communications.
  4. If anything, this saga is the perfect incident to illustrate that people have been willingly giving out personal information for the sake of convenience, social credo and vanity. It is time to re-examine your digital lifestyle priorities and decide if your communication habits need curbing and restraint, and preset the level of disclosure you are willing to offer to commercial firms in order to satisfy your penchant for free services.

With that out of the way, Kaspersky’s mobile threat researcher Victor Chebyshev said: “Most messaging apps today are relatively safe since they use encryption when sending messages. However, it is worth remembering that the user may face an attack on the device or an attempt by attackers to infect it. On Android, there is a built-in Accessibility Service that attackers are known to have exploited in order to collect user data. In particular, last year, we discovered stalkerware that could receive the text of incoming and outgoing messages from instant messengers using this standard function.

So, if privacy and data security are your top concerns, Chebyshev offers the following tips: 

  • Do not download messengers and other programs from third-party sources. Use only official application marketplaces.
  • If possible, acquaint yourself with the user agreement. There are situations when the developer of the app openly warns (now or in future) that they may share user data with third-parties.
  • Do not follow suspicious links from messages, even if they were sent to you by your friends.
  • Use security solutions when possible on your mobile devices.
  • Pay attention to which permissions downloaded applications request. If the requested permission is not necessary for the full functioning of the application, then there is a reason to be wary. For example, the flashlight app clearly does not need access to the microphone.

Meanwhile, users who remain unconvinced or uncomfortable with Facebook’s behavior but still want to use its apps, can show their displeasure by boycotting WhatsApp Business communications, turning off location tracking and other access permissions on their smart device, and canvassing the authorities to keep a tight rein on data protection laws in tandem with global trends.

Finally, business entities should take note of the increasing need for trust in the digital economy: remain transparent, offer omnichannel communications options to users, treasure their trust, and word your notifications with sensitivity and respect.