Meta executives counter Elon Musk’s claims on WhatsApp data privacy

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WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart answered Elon Musk's claim that the messaging app "exports your user data every night."
WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart answered Elon Musk's claim that the messaging app "exports your user data every night."

WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart answered Elon Musk’s claim that the messaging app “exports your user data every night.”

Cathcart Denies Data Export Allegations

WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart has responded to Elon Musk‘s recent allegations that the messaging app “exports your user data every night.” 

Posting on X (formerly Twitter), Cathcart firmly denied the claim, stating it was simply “not correct.” He highlighted that WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted, meaning the company cannot read the messages.

Support from Meta’s AI Chief

Yann LeCun, Meta’s artificial intelligence chief, also defended WhatsApp, using strong language on X to criticize Musk’s assertions. LeCun further accused Musk of making contradictory and unrealistic claims about artificial intelligence and “spewing conspiracy theories” on social media, including his platform, X.

Also read: Short measures in beer and wine across UK pubs and bars

Encryption Commitment

Cathcart emphasized that only the sender and recipient of a WhatsApp message can read its contents. WhatsApp’s commitment to encryption is so robust that the company has stated it would rather be blocked in the UK than weaken its encryption protocols.

Metadata Concerns

However, Musk’s vague reference to “user data” being uploaded could pertain to metadata, which includes information sent alongside the actual message. 

Security researcher Tommy Mysk pointed out that “WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted, but user data is not only about messages.” Metadata can include details such as user location, contact interactions, and online patterns.

WhatsApp’s Metadata Sharing

It is known that WhatsApp shares some metadata with other Meta platforms. This sharing does not include message contents but involves sufficient metadata for Meta companies to make suggestions and show personalized adverts. 

Dr. Tristan Henderson, a computer science lecturer at the University of St Andrews, noted, “This does include sufficient metadata for these Meta companies to make suggestions and show personalized adverts, which in itself shows what metadata can reveal.”

Privacy Policy Clarification

The WhatsApp Privacy Policy specifies that the company uses some user data for “showing relevant offers and ads across the Meta Company Products.” This data sharing practice has been a point of concern regarding privacy and user data security.

Conclusion

In this exchange, Cathcart effectively countered Musk’s claims, reiterating the strong encryption that protects WhatsApp messages. While metadata remains a concern, the company’s stance on message encryption and data privacy remains firm, despite ongoing debates about metadata usage.

Gary Monroe

Gary Monroe is a seasoned contributor to the Los Angeles Business Magazine, where he offers insightful analysis on local business trends and economic developments. With a focus on Los Angeles' dynamic commercial landscape, Gary's articles provide valuable perspectives for entrepreneurs and business professionals in the city.

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