The Mark Zuckerberg-acquired WhatsApp is throwing up as many headaches as its parent Facebook these days because netizens are getting smarter about their data privacy. In an intemperate push to monetise data out of WhatsApp, the popular messaging platform, Facebook got into a tangle that saw millions of individual users and groups sign off and download apps like Signal and Telegram that are less intrusive of personal territory like online data. It may have come as a shock to most Internet users that an app promising end-to-end encryption, and which routinely declines law enforcement enquiries with the excuse that it has no access to user chats, should talk of sharing user data with Facebook.
It is largely true that netizens sign off much of their rights over prized personal information when they sign on to social media platforms and the like. Big Tech has never been averse to building up their businesses and making money out of a large number of users running into millions. The leaks of personal data from breaches by hackers or emanating from sheer carelessness of the machinery that is supposed to ensure security of data have not stopped people from their modern-day existence in an inter-connected world. The advantage is very much with those who keep data as citizens seem to have no rights in the absence of a regulatory framework to govern the Internet.
A parliamentary committee has summoned Facebook and Twitter officials to question them on the misuse of social media and online news platforms, but it is a long-drawn process that might not lead to foolproof measures to safeguard citizens’ rights. Big Tech may have done signal service to the world in cutting off the communication of hate propaganda by maverick users like Donald Trump, but it must do a lot more to earn people’s trust that it will not recklessly monetise their online presence by compromising their privacy. No algorithm has been invented yet that exposes the cavalier ways of the giants of the new economy. It is up to Internet users to be most discerning in signing on.