Essential? – I Think Not

I received an email today from Nokia which had the strapline:

Essential Apps for your Lumia: Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram

Perhaps it’s just me, what with my hardening arteries, old age and all that, but “Essential”? – I think not. In fact, I refuse to touch any of them with a bargepole.

I’ve long thought that Facebook is the spawn of the devil, and its recent acquisition of WhatsApp for the absurd sum of $19 billion merely confirms it. WhatsApp is a proprietary, cross-platform instant messaging subscription service for smartphones. It also has the nasty habit of harvesting all telephone numbers that are in a subscribers contact list, whether their owners are subscribers or not. Dutch newspapers are carrying the story today that the Dutch Data Protection Authority (the CBP) are saying that WhatsApp is breaking Dutch Law. The newspapers are a bit late, the CBP published its report on WhatsApp over a year ago, and it concluded:

People who want to use the app must grant WhatsApp access to their entire electronic address book, including the mobile phone numbers of contacts that are not using the app (except in the latest app version on an iPhone with iOS 6). Because WhatsApp does not obtain unambiguous consent from non-users to process their personal data and does not have any other legal ground for processing that data, WhatsApp is acting in breach of the provisions of Article 8 of the Wbp [the Dutch Data Protection Act].

I think I’ll stick to the good old-fashioned (non-proprietary) SMS for my Smartphone messaging needs, thank you very much.

As Jeff Atwood puts it:

Nothing terrifies me more than an app with no moral conscience in the desperate pursuit of revenue that has full access to everything on my phone: contacts, address book, pictures, email, auth tokens, you name it. I’m not excited by the prospect of installing an app on my phone these days. It’s more like a vague sense of impending dread, with my finger shakily hovering over the uninstall button the whole time. All I can think is what shitty thing is this “free” app going to do to me so they can satisfy their investors?

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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