February 26, 2014


Should we be concerned about privacy as Facebook buys Whatsapp? This looks like the beginnings of a digital empire. What are its aims?

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Should we be concerned about privacy as Facebook buys Whatsapp?

Should we be concerned about privacy as Facebook buys Whatsapp?

One of the controversial news items that have rocked the globe for the last couple of days with the same trending on social media even as we speak, has been the purchase of the popular WhatsApp by the largest social network Facebook for $19 billion (Sh1.64 trillion) in cash and stock (see Kenya Forum posting, ‘Facebook buys Whatsapp for $19 billion, 20 February).

WhatsApp is a mobile multimedia messaging App that allows users to in addition to text messaging, send each other pictures, videos, and audio media messages as well as their location using integrated mapping features for free for one year.


Whatsapp, which was founded in 2009 by Americans Brian Acton and Jan Koum, has gained massive popularity since its inception to the point where social media analysts suggested that WhatsApp would be one of the new social platforms that will contribute to the decline of Facebook. Users of the later, they surmised, would migrate to the new avenues.

One might wonder if the price Facebook paid to acquire the five year-old company that brings in less than a billion dollars revenue is really worth it. As one of the Kenya forum readers joked on reading the news of the now famous acquisition, “Just why would Facebook buy an App for $19 billion and they can download it for free?”

Well, as of November 10, 2013, WhatsApp boasted of having over 190 million monthly active users with about 18 billion messages and 400 million photos shared each day. Judging from these statistics need we say more?


The latest news is that WhatsApp have now added free voice-call text messaging-based service for its now 450 million customers.


Research by two doctoral candidates in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University, John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler, had predicted that by 2017 Facebook will lose 80 percent of its users as fans migrate to other sites such as Twitter, Instagram and smartphone based apps like Whatsapp, Snapchat & Kik Messenger (see Kenya Forum posting, ‘Is Facebook, with older users, facing a decline?’, 29 January). Facebook is the largest online social network in history boasting of more than 1.1 billion users in the world.

It therefore goes without saying that the ‘pricey’ acquisition of the budding messaging service WhatsApp is indeed a smart move that will boost Facebook’s grip on the youth market as the purchase would add about a million users per day to their network.


Facebook appears to be interested in users’ data which judging from the growing social media marketing is indeed crucial to them. You don’t need to be a keen observer to spot a paid ad or two on your timeline often and if you run a page on Facebook then you are better placed to understand the dynamics of Facebook’s marketing concept.

Depending on the nature of your product or service, Facebook gives you options to advertise through pages, Ads and even boosting posts on your pages at a fee. These, just like any other adverts prevail through a targeted audience and the only way Facebook can tailor them to suite a clients specific needs is through the data they have.

Users have expressed fears that most of their personal data on Facebook might be shared with third-party companies and especially after the firm acquired WhatsApp.

Over the weekend rumours were rife on social media that content users of WhatsApp share on the platform would be published on their timelines and also that terms and conditions of the messaging platform might change anytime without notification as Facebook does and most users alleged that they would close their accounts if that happened. Facebook however refuted the claims and assured users that the two platforms will run independently.

“Whatsapp will continue to operate independently within Facebook. The product roadmap will remain unchanged,” Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on his page.

Technology comes with its cons as well and this could be one, so the choice is yours.


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