WhatsApp in the eye of storm as almost 80% Indians consider moving to Telegram, Signal over “take it or leave it policy”

The world’s most popular messaging platform, WhatsApp, is in the eye of the storm in its biggest market.

The gap between the top three UPI apps and WhatsApp Pay is quite epic.

The world’s most popular messaging platform, WhatsApp, is in the eye of the storm in its biggest market over a new set of terms and conditions, that although have been stalled until May, have become a source of grave concern for users – and the government. So much so that, the government has sent out a strong message to the Facebook-owned platform to re-consider, even as Indians have started to consider seemingly more secure alternatives like Telegram and Signal.

According to a new CyberMedia Research (CMR) study, an overwhelming 79% of users across the top eight cities of India, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune are reconsidering using WhatsApp with 28% of those even planning to leave the platform after the implementation of its ‘take it or leave it policy’ in May 2021.

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More specifically, 51% of respondents said they would minimize the use of WhatsApp and might move to Telegram, Signal or other chat apps while 28% were sure they would not continue with WhatsApp at all.

WhatsApp privacy policy update: what is it and what are the concerns

The updated privacy policy will allow WhatsApp to share “some” user data with parent firm Facebook though it has clarified on multiple occasions that, it “does not affect the privacy of your messages with your friends and family in any way.” The bigger concern is, there seems to be no way to opt out, at least at this point of time for most users globally including in India. At the same time, the update does not apply to the European market because of EU’s stern privacy guidelines that WhatsApp is forced to comply with. This is something that the government of India has also highlighted explicitly in its message to WhatsApp, saying the platform cannot unilaterally put in such a policy in its biggest market and that WhatsApp was obliged to respect the privacy of its largest user base.

“What is remarkable is, most Indians (76%) were aware of the policy,” Prabhu Ram, Head, Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CMR told Financial Express Online.

“WhatsApp has been the default messaging tool for consumers, even more than the normal SMS. It was free, it was intimate, it was something we owned. But now because of this take it or leave it policy, the consumers are becoming aware that it was not free, after all.”

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There was the sense of anger (49%) and loss of trust (45%) along with a feeling of sadness, and most importantly, breach of trust (35%), Ram said. A mere 10% of consumers remained indifferent to the new policy announcement.

Telegram seems to be the biggest beneficiary with 41% of those surveyed planning to switch to it while 35% preferred Signal.

“Over the past one year, 37% of users have actually used Telegram, compared to a mere 10% for Signal, a rather nascent messaging app that is enjoying a spike in downloads in recent days,” Ram said.

There are other reasons contributing to Telegram’s surge in popularity over WhatsApp. Majority of users on WhatsApp did not feel safe storing their chat backup on third-party platforms like Google Drive or iCloud. Telegram offers its own dedicated cloud for backup – 49% respondents appreciated this aspect. Moreover, Telegram scored lower in terms of occurrence of phishing and spamming while also more pro-actively acknowledging user reports on illegal, abusive and copyrighted content through in-app buttons, and an Abuse Notification Channel.

“If the survey is to be conducted again, the results would be more or less the same. We have 95% confidence in our results. And they are statistically precise of plus or minus of 3% of what they would be if the entire population had been serviced. So, this would be the case, even if this were to be extended beyond those eight metros,” Ram said, adding, “WhatsApp has been something which we have been so accustomed to, but going forward, we might be looking at a multi-messaging future.”

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First published on: 08-02-2021 at 13:03 IST