3 reasons not to use Whatsapp

A developer's reasoning for his choice of messaging app

Posted by ekn on August 19, 2020

At the time when everybody was using SMS arround the end of 2011, I asked myself why are we still writing with this old technology while we have unlimited internet access? I researched for an app that could transmit messages over IP similar to the concept of Skype - which transmits voice over IP. My research ended up on Viber and Whatsapp which both were at the same stage of popularity within my contact list: 0 friends. So I started to spread the word and invited all my cool friends who had data access to this new era of mobile messaging. For some reason (it may be the branding) I preferred Whatsapp over Viber and within the shortest time even my older family members started to contact me via Whatsapp. The rest of the story I do not need to tell you: Today Whatsapp is the #1 messaging app on the globe - everybody is using it - but not me! I deleted Whatsapp from all my devices (they are many) in early 2015 after the acquisation of Whatsapp by Facebook. How come that one of the pioneering users as me has decided to leave the party so early?

In the following I will give 3 reasons why I do not have Whatsapp and I am also feeling delighted to present an alternative approach of a cyber-phyisical reality. This should not be understood as a moral judgement. These are simply my personal reasons aimed to my social environment.

Reason 1: Whatsapp is not for free - we pay with our privacy

As allready mentioned, Whatsapp has started as a small company and has then been acquired by Facebook, which is one of the most powerful and influental companies of the 21st century. This would not be an issue as long as they would respect our rights to privacy. Instead we sign contracts that give them the legitimation to do with our data whatever they want: collect - analyse - sell. Our digital lives have become a pool of money for big corporations, because out of whatever interaction we have with their free services, they gain valuable information that is a way for them and other 3rd parties to earn a lot of money - with us. And if that is not enough, money is not the worse case scenario. Out of the collection of data from millions of users throughout the society in every place around the globe in real-time, an immense artificial intelligence is fed that is able to evaluate global states and dynamics without us noticing. If you do not believe this or cannot see a problem in this, then you may be either a naive techno-optimist, an ignorant conuser (consume + user) or a complete scepticist that does not believe anything. What matters for me is that I see how many data is collected, how many decisions are premade, how much of our reality is actually formed by technology and how powerless we have become. To put it in a nutshell: The privacy that we give away for free feeds a technocracy in live-time surveilance mode. Anyways, lets not get to deep into that and move on with reason 2…

Reason 2: There are free and open source alternatives

Of course I am not the only person that is disturbed by reason #1. And surely others want to have a share of the mobile messaging pie. Since there are commercial alternatives which build there business model on earning money from app sales or similar to Whatsapp through data marketing (?!), there are also completely free and trustful services. Now you will say, how can it be trustful and be free? Well, there is something called Open Source. In my opinion it is the best thing that could happen to humanity since centuries if not since millenias. In Open Source everybody sees the source code of a programm and can contribute to the code if their ideas are in consent with the source. So for the example of a messenger app, everyone can see how the messages are handleded, if the encryption technology is really secure (where are they keys stored?) or if there is even a backdoor which leaks all information directly to another server.

For me it was clear to use an open source messaging alternative such as Signal Messenger. Not all the same functions are covered and maybe not all of your friends will be willing to join your ethical approach, but at least good friends and family show understanding - if they really value you!

Reason 3: Pioneering was never a hype

I do not want to use technology because I am feeling forced to use it. If I get socially isolated because I do not have Whatsapp then this maybe annoying but it is no reason to make me feel so bad that I cannot continue to have a happy and fulfilled life. I may be an outsider with my decision but I was the same when the technology was not known yet. Now I am using other technologies that mainstream does not know about and of course they come from the open source universe. The day will come when pioneering technologies and approaches to technology usage will enter mainstream arena again. That day all sheeps will follow as always, while superusers will watch with an critical eye if they continue to use the now-popular technology or if they will switch to the next underground piece of code that will be the next cool thing one day.