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Reaction to criticism WhatsApp plans one-time messages The WhatsApp chat service is reacting to the growing criticism of its market power. The fears of many users are to be allayed with new functions for the protection of privacy.


WhatsApp logo can be seen on a smartphone | dpa

Responding to criticism WhatsApp plans one-time messages

Status: 14.06.2021 11:19 a.m.

The WhatsApp chat service is responding to the growing criticism of its market power. The fears of many users are to be allayed with new functions for the protection of privacy. The WhatsApp chat service wants to stick to the complete encryption and is promising new functions to protect privacy. The company, which belongs to the US group Facebook, is launching an advertising campaign on data protection in Germany and Great Britain today. The countries are among their most important markets. Management’s ideas include the ability to send messages that the recipient can only view once. That could be useful, for example, if you have to send family members a password, said WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart.

The logos of the apps from Twitter (from left), Facebook and WhatsApp. | AP 06/02/2021

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Users also want to be able to set that chats disappear on their own after a certain period of time. “Overall, people don’t want their messages to last forever,” said Cathcart. “When we talk, we don’t have a recording device with us. So it’s strange that digital chat platforms save them forever.” The short promotional videos say that content sent on WhatsApp is basically only visible in clear text to the users involved thanks to the so-called end-to-end encryption.

Privacy activists alerted

WhatsApp has recently come under pressure for various reasons: On the one hand, the Announcement of the new usage rules caused criticism. Data protectionists warned that WhatsApp could increase data exchange with third-party companies and, above all, that data would also be shared with the parent company Facebook. WhatsApp rejected this and emphasized several times that the end-to-end encryption, with which the service itself does not have access to content, will not be weakened. WhatsApp boss Cathcart admitted errors in the announcement of the new rules. WhatsApp has not made it clear enough what you are doing and why: “We only became clearer when we saw the confusion. That is our responsibility,” said Cathcart.

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More than two billion users

In view of the criticism, many people have apparently looked around for alternatives to the chat service. The company currently has more than two billion users. It is not known how many actually migrated. A vast majority of users who have already been asked to agree to the new rules would have accepted them, said Cathcart. He did not give exact numbers. Originally, users who do not agree to the new rules should lose access to basic functions over time. Meanwhile they no longer face any consequences . Only the new functions for communication with companies will only be able to be used after approval of the update. According to WhatsApp, they were the main reason for changing the terms of use.

Man is standing with smartphone in hand in front of a large WhatsApp logo | picture alliance / dpa 05/15/2021

Controversial update WhatsApp with new data protection rules Today WhatsApp implements its new data protection regulations. What exactly happens to the data is unclear.

Attempt a charm offensive

The company’s move could have another reason: The parent company Facebook is currently not only under close observation in the USA . Last year, federal authorities and states filed lawsuits against the Internet giant Google and the online platform Facebook. They are accused of anti-competitive practices. The market power of the large technology groups is now seen as a problem by many governments around the world. Consumer advocates also warn: “The market power of the Facebook group forces users to communicate via WhatsApp,” says Lina Ehrig, the head of the digital and media team at the Federation of German Consumer Organizations. “From the consumer’s point of view, it would be ideal if messenger services are legally and technically designed in such a way that sustainable competition and the innovative strength of the market are promoted.” In order to promote competition, so-called interoperability would be a possible means from the point of view of consumer advocates: As a survey by the consumer advice center shows, around a third of users would be willing to switch messengers if messages could be shared between different providers.

Encryption dispute

For its part, Cathcart is targeting governments. They tried to soften the encryption in chat services. “I hope that, over time, governments will see that the most important role they can play is to keep people safe.” This could be done, for example, by setting standards for companies.

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WhatsApp argues with governments that end-to-end encryption helps protect the security of citizens. Facebook is still sticking to the plan to bring full encryption to its second chat service Messenger as the next step, said Cathcart. In several countries, governments and authorities are attempting the Complete encryption in chat services like WhatsApp . In Germany, too, there is a draft law with which the protection of the constitution is supposed to enable source telecommunications monitoring in encrypted chat services as well.