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The Right2Know Campaign notes with approval that South Africa’s Information Regulator has engaged with Facebook’s local office regarding its attempt to lock users of its WhatsApp message service into consent to details of their WhatsApp use being shared with Facebook. Global public and regulatory backlash have pushed Facebook into delaying the ultimatum given to users, from 8 February until May 2021.

Like Google, Facebook is a giant of surveillance capitalism, meaning that it records billions of people’s online behaviour to construct user profiles, which it then uses to sell targeted adverts, and may also share with intelligence organisations. 

The Information Regulator’s investigation is into the different terms of service offered to WhatsApp users in Europe and elsewhere, and whether South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act also provides protection to its citizens comparable to that provided to Europeans by EU law.

R2K’s response to WhatsApp’s ultimatum is twofold: 

  • We will be migrating to Signal, which is recognised as the “gold standard” messaging app for user security and privacy. It is a nonprofit company. We encourage members and supporters to use this guide.

 

  • We call on ICASA and mobile network operators such as MTN, Vodacom, CellC and Telkom to end WhatsApp’s privileged status. This privilege takes the form firstly of being pre-installed in many phones (sometimes in a way that prevents deletion by the owner of the phone) and secondly, in “sweetheart deals” whereby WhatsApp subsidises the cost of monthly data bundles used exclusively for its service.

Citizens have the right to privacy, even if they use cheap phones and services. ICASA must regulate accordingly, and as corporate “citizens”, the network operators must respect our rights. 

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For more information or further comment contact: 

Michael Graaf, R2K Communication Rights Organiser: 079 548 7242

Thami Nkosi, R2K Campaign Advocacy Organizer: 062 624 5992

Source of original article: Right2Know Campaign (www.r2k.org.za).
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