Study: Majority continues to use WhatsApp after data privacy dispute

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WhatsApp’s new privacy rules provoked calls to leave the chat service. But a survey shows that many users remain loyal to the Facebook app.

Months of controversy over WhatsApp’s new privacy rules have so far had little impact on Facebook’s chat service in Germany. In a survey commissioned by Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 79 percent said they have the app on their smartphone and use it. According to the survey, a good half of WhatsApp users (52 percent) already agreed with the new regulations, which came into force in mid-May.

Hardly anyone deleted the app

At the same time, 13 percent said they planned to delete the app. Around half of them already had data protection concerns beforehand, while five percent of those surveyed by Yougov Germany only had doubts following the debate about the new regulations – and two percent want to leave because many of their contacts have also removed WhatsApp.

Whether it actually comes to the permanent departure from WhatsApp, however, is still another question. In the past twelve months, only three percent of respondents deleted the app from their smartphones. And overall, eight percent said they had already removed WhatsApp once – but then returned because too many of their contacts could be reached via the service.

Half have “no good feeling” about data protection

At the same time, almost half of WhatsApp users do not have a good feeling about data protection. Thus, every third person has concerns – but remains because contacts can be reached there. Another 14 percent also have doubts, but do not know of any good alternative. No data protection concerns have 28 percent.

There are more than two billion users of WhatsApp. The service has had to contend with significant criticism in recent months, however, following the announcement of new usage rules. The trigger was the assessment that more data could be shared with the parent company Facebook with the update. Rejecting this as a misunderstanding, WhatsApp says that the changes were primarily intended to create a basis for communication between companies and their customers. At the same time, the service dropped plans to severely restrict functionality over time for users who do not agree to the rules.

Hardly a contribution to Facebook’s group profits

Making communication between businesses and their customers is the current plan for how Facebook will eventually make money from WhatsApp. The world’s largest online network acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for what ended up being around $22 billion. The purchase took a potential rival off the market, but the service has hardly contributed to the group’s profits.

The most popular WhatsApp alternative among the few potential churners is Signal with 27 percent, according to the survey. WhatsApp also uses this app’s technology for end-to-end encryption. With complete encryption, the contents of the communication are basically only visible to the participants in plain text, but not to the operators of the platform. Signal is now financially supported by WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, who left the Facebook group.

15 percent want to go back to SMS

Telegram was almost on a par with Signal in the favor of potential WhatsApp churners. For the app operated by the founder of the Russian Facebook clone VKontakte, Pawel Durow, 26 percent want to decide. The service Threema came in at 16 percent, and 13 percent want to switch to Facebook’s in-house alternative Messenger. To the classic SMS instead of end-to-end encrypted chat services want to fall back 15 percent.

Among those who have already left WhatsApp, Signal also leads as an alternative with 28 percent. Around one in five of them each use Threema and Telegram, and 15 percent use Facebook Messenger.

An online survey conducted by YouGov Deutschland GmbH, in which 2029 people took part between June 11 and June 14, 2021, provided the data used. The results were weighted and are representative of the German population aged 18 and over.

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