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WhatsApp users sceptical of latest update

Hyderabad: WhatsApp’s latest version, which is requesting additional access to files on one’s phone, besides the regular photos and media, has city users wary of the Android 2.23.2.8 update.

“While these permissions may not be inherently dangerous, because WhatsApp cannot access them unless the user grants permission, they have the potential for misuse. We read about some or the other cyber scam happening due to certain privacy breaches or access to data. Requests for additional access make no sense, especially when the user has granted them years ago at the very beginning,” said Amman Raj, an educator.

WhatsApp’s privacy policy, under its ‘How we use your information’ and ‘Safety, Security, And Integrity’ sections, reads, “Safety, security, and integrity are an integral part of our services. We use information we have to verify accounts and activity; combat harmful conduct; protect users against bad experiences and spam; and promote safety, security, and integrity on and off our services, such as by investigating suspicious activity or violations of our terms and policies, and to ensure our services are being used legally.”

Raj said that the additional requests, however, do not match the policy.

Cyber safety expert Rupesh Mittal said that although the update is yet to be studied properly, the permission request still sounds fishy, given WhatsApp’s ‘assured encryption’ policy.

Abhishek S., a former employee of Meta, said that these permissions are mostly harmless. “Sometimes, when a phone is reset or newly updated, the app could have lost its original access to your media and so asks for them to be renewed. It’s not uncommon,” he said.

Rupesh, founder-director of Cyber Jagrithi and Safety Foundation, said, “Choose wisely what permissions and accesses are of absolute importance. For example, ever since Facebook became Meta, many got pop-ups asking them to agree to the updated policy and allowed only to get rid of it. Some haven’t and don’t mind however annoying the pop-up gets.”

Another way is to turn on privacy notifications that tell you whenever your camera or microphone is being accessed, sometimes even when you haven’t turned them on. This feature is now inbuilt into most android phones. The final trick is to permit access only when you have a file to share and turn it off once done.”

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