Are our WhatsApp messages and calls being monitored by the government?

By January 14, 2021 Government, Technology

We have been alerted to this rather lengthy message being forwarded on WhatsApp:

The message makes several claims:

    1. All calls will be recorded, and these recordings will be saved
    2. Social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter will be monitored
    3. Individuals’ devices will be connected to ‘the ministry system’
    4. Any posts individuals send regarding the government/politics/religion/’current situation’ will be considered a crime
    5. Individuals can be arrested for this without a warrant

It is not mentioned which country’s government is being referred to in the message, what the ‘current situation’ is, and what date the ‘tomorrow’ actually is.

The message also includes what is supposedly updated statuses on WhatsApp:

  • ✔ = Message sent
  • ✔✔ = Message reached recipient
  • Two blue ✔✔ = Message read by recipient
  • Three blue ✔✔✔ = Government took note of the message
  • Two blue and one red ✔✔✔ = Government can take action against you
  • One blue and two red ✔✔✔ = Government is checking your information
  • Three red ✔✔✔ = Government has started action against you and you will get a court summons soon

It is uncertain where the author of the message got their information from, given that presently, there are only 3 message statuses on WhatsApp:

What’s up with WhatsApp?

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has recently come under fire after the announcement of an update in its privacy policy, in which it is now reserving the right to share data it collects about users with the broader Facebook network which also includes Instagram. The data will be shared regardless of whether or not you have accounts on those platforms.

All WhatsApp users will need to accept the new terms by 8 February. If they don’t, they will be unable to continue using the service.

Is there any truth in the message then?

Facebook addresses privacy concerns

In a tweet published on 12 January, head of Instagram and former Facebook executive Adam Mosseri said that there is “a lot of misinformation” about the updated WhatsApp terms of service.

Mosseri assured that the update “does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way”, and shared a link to a WhatsApp blog post which addressed pressing questions about the update and its implications.

In the blog post, WhatsApp clarified that they cannot see private messages or listen to calls, don’t keep logs of who everyone’s messaging or calling, among others:

Therefore, the claims made in the WhatsApp message (down to the new statuses) we screenshot are false.

Speaking of the ‘new’ message statuses, we actually did a factcheck on a similar claim that was making its rounds back in April 2019:

The claim also brought in how the government is monitoring WhatsApp messages, and that action can be taken against individuals “if necessary”. Then, we debunked the claim, and also observed how the news on the third tick was first spotted in 2014 on De Speld, a Dutch satire website, and in another satirical piece on ScoopWhoop, an India-based media company.

It is uncertain whether or not the author of the latest claims is yet another prankster, but with news of WhatsApp’s new privacy terms, it’s no surprise that more would be susceptible to believing what’s being alleged.

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