WhatsApp: The private internet

The Economist writes:

Messaging services differ from social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest in two fundamental ways. One is addressability. When users post on Facebook the company’s software decides which of their “friends” will see the post automatically (others will find it only by looking). If the post proves popular the software will spread it further. When a user sends a message on WhatsApp, that message goes to only the person or group they designated. In messaging apps, people know to whom they are talking.
The other difference is one of business models. Social-media firms need to know what users are saying, visiting and liking in order to provide the services they sell to advertisers. And to maximise those sales they need algorithms that will offer users more things they will like, or at least be engaged by. Hence their interest in the viral. Messaging services have no cause to read over their users’ shoulders, and in some cases lack the ability to do so even if they wanted to. Some have deliberately acted to suppress virality by limiting the ease with which things can be forwarded.

In a surprisingly “balanced” view point on The Economist, I concur with the above two issues raised in their leader article. My concern is about the splinternet- the private internet and the gateways for access. We find our redemption and pay with our attention. We trust (blindly), the owners of the platforms.

The personal consumer applications are completely unsuited for the “enterprise” work where both “security and privacy” are essential. I find the dichotomies surprising though. End users are fine discussing their problems with their family or service providers in what they assume is the “secure” medium (under the moniker of end to end encryption) while express a collective outrage when the healthcare data gets “leaked”.

There seems to be a simplistic template for organisations about the “hacks”. They all respond with the disclaimers- “while hackers accessed the systems, no sensitive financial data was leaked” which is patently false. The companies pay the audit to get an okay report and the auditors give an okay report because their business depends on giving an okay report! So while the check boxes are checked for the compliance and “regulators”, in the event of a hack, there are certain ways to avoid the backlash on the people concerned with the sanctity of our data.

These are complex issues and unless there is zero trust in Facebook, it wouldn’t improve.

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