Privacy Price: Users need to get used to idea that privacy can’t come free

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January 11, 2021 6:30 AM

Data portability will force a WhatsApp to compete on privacy with the likes of Signal/Telegram

Indeed, the lack of portability is one of the reasons why a Signal or a Telegram has not really been able to meaningfully rival WhatsApp.Indeed, the lack of portability is one of the reasons why a Signal or a Telegram has not really been able to meaningfully rival WhatsApp.

Those crying foul about WhatsApp collecting more user information than before must not forget that one of the reasons why Facebook acquire the instant-messaging service was to grow its user base and leverage WhatsApp users’ data for revenue. User data is key to the company’s revenue model whose central pillar is advertising. Surely, Facebook keeping WhatsApp free for over billion users would have some trade-in? Without doubt, given Facebook’s record with user-data, users privacy concerns over WhatsApp mining more data are legitimate, but how is the company to survive if users are going to resist charges for the service and monetisation of their data as well?

The solution perhaps lies in easy portability of user-data, quite like a Google Takeout, which will allow users to migrate to some other platform without losing volumes of data. Indeed, the lack of portability is one of the reasons why a Signal or a Telegram has not really been able to meaningfully rival WhatsApp.

Another reason, of course, is network-heft; what good is it to have private communications if most of those who you want to communicate with are on a different platform? Portability could resolve this, too. After all, if it is easy to migrate without data loss to another platform, then it becomes a simple matter for most users. Even as users need to get used to the idea that privacy can’t come free, a WhatsApp competing with a Telegram on privacy will surely give them greater choice.

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