Why I won’t be leaving WhatsApp – unless everyone joins Signal, in which case I probably will

It’s almost like these big tech companies enmesh themselves in your lives in such intricate ways that you can’t do without them, the blighters

Rupert Hawksley
Friday 15 January 2021 15:39
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<p>Elon Musk has urged people to leave Whatsapp and join Signal</p>

Elon Musk has urged people to leave Whatsapp and join Signal

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Such a dilemma, isn’t it? You either prostrate yourself at the feet of Mark Zuckerberg, offer up your private information as data, and make the tech giant even more rich and powerful, or you... leave WhatsApp. Hang on a minute – put like that, it’s not really a dilemma at all.

Of course I won’t be leaving WhatsApp. Imagine! Do you have any idea how stressful that would be? It has taken four years of errant emojis, regrettable uses of “lol” (“mum unwell me at golf course lol dad”) and typing… typing… typing, but at last my family has got to grips with WhatsApp. It’s really brought us all closer together (Me: “Morning”... Sister: “Hi there”... Mum: “Hello”... Dad: “hqcnqqxq”).

And now you want me to undo all this hard work, delete the messaging app, and start the whole process again on an app called Signal, promoted by all-round top bloke and man of the people – *checks notes* – Elon Musk? All because Zuckerberg, who owns Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, which probably owns me, wants to know something about my battery level or internet service provider? Come on.

And what about all the other WhatsApp groups, which no one has used for seven months, but which you’re damn chuffed to be a part of? “Saturday session – who’s in?” “Turning 30… HELP!” “5-a-side Kloppham Common (someone bring a ball)”. I suppose you want me to ditch those as well, fling the memories on the digital bonfire, and watch it all burn? And don’t tell me that it can all be easily resurrected on Signal, even if it probably does also have a group chat function. It’s not as easy as that. Each WhatsApp tapestry is its own masterpiece. (Zuck, if you want that line for an ad campaign, you have my number – along with every other detail about my life.) Trying to recreate this on Signal would be foolish. Is it even compatible with Giphy?

Besides – and I think the lawyers will be pleased I am mentioning this – the new WhatsApp privacy policy, announced last week, doesn’t currently affect the European region, including the UK (you’d have thought that, after Brexit, we could make our rules on how much personal data we hand over to Facebook; but lump us all in together, if you must.) “For the avoidance of any doubt,” a spokesperson explained, “it is still the case that WhatsApp does not share European region WhatsApp user data with Facebook for the purpose of Facebook using this data to improve its products or advertisements.”

For the time being at least, then, all is well. So if you, for example, message a friend on WhatsApp about Armie Hammer, there is currently no reason to believe your Facebook feed will be busy with adverts for steak restaurants the following day. Relax.

It’s almost like these big tech companies enmesh themselves in your lives in such intricate ways that you can’t do without them, the blighters. So when they change the privacy policy, it is a case, as I hope the above has demonstrated, of “I accept” or “Goodbye, social life”. Even hardened social media avoiders have WhatsApp. They have to. You can’t exactly send a text message, can you?

But where does it all end? If you’re spooked by the recent WhatsApp developments, then you should, really, delete Facebook and Instagram, which is also owned by Zuckerberg. And who’s to say that Facebook won’t buy the next big messaging app? So on we go, round and round, a game of cat and mouse, where the cat is the size of a sabre-toothed tiger and the mouse is totally addicted to eating cheese off its claws.

You can’t win, basically, unless you rid yourself of all of it (but then again, are you really winning?). Lean into it, I say, and enjoy all the pleasures WhatsApp brings. On which note, anyone around for a few beers on Saturday? Anyone? Guys? Oh God, you’ve all gone to Signal. Right, fine, I’ll download it now.  

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