The Whatsapp ‘Catch-22’

When I originally signed up for Whatsapp, I was willing to pay the $1 annual fee to help support an app that seemed to value the privacy of its users in exchange for a nominal fee. When Facebook acquired Whatsapp, I had a feeling that it was only a matter of time when data from Whatsapp would be harvested for generating ad revenue, similar to what Facebook has already done. For anyone else who did not see this coming, $19 billion dollars is a lot of money and it should be obvious at least in hindsight to see that Facebook would want to eventually monetize its investment.

An obvious solution is for people who don’t like the new terms to switch to another app that better values their privacy. However, this is easier said than done. Whatsapp has built a critical mass of users and it will be hard for anyone to leave without forcing their friends, family and other connections to switch, as well. The problem is that the longer you are on Whatsapp and the more you connect with people using the app, the harder it is to eventually switch away.

The Whatsapp experience is particularly disheartening for one specific reason: one of the reasons people originally gravitated to Whatsapp was because it promised to value user privacy better than many competing options available at that time.If people switch from Whatsapp to something else, what is the guarantee that they will not be in a similar situation in a few years where that service gets acquired and the terms are changed on you with the only practical recourse being that you need to switch repeat the cycle all over again?

‘Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me’. However, do I really have any options to safeguard myself against getting ‘#Whatsapped’ in today’s connected world. I am not sure there is really a good solution and that is probably more disheartening than anything else….