It’s fairly obvious that Facebook isn’t a very privacy respecting company, solely based on the fact that Facebook uses a business model which provides you with a “free” service which generates profits by monetizing your data. I certainly am against using any kind of services which utilize this kind of business model, but I believe firmly that nowadays this isn’t possible anymore, or is at least very inconvenient.
I live in an European country where WhatsApp has always been the standard messenger used on smartphones. Back when I got my first Smartphone, which was around 2013, WhatsApp had a very slick and appealing user interface. While it’s still way more intuitive than for example Facebook messanger, the app became gradually more clunky and slow, especially after the takeover by Facebook. Unnecessary features like calls, or even worse, status posts have been added including an idiotic splash screen, which serves no other purpose than to remind us that Facebook is omnipresent in our digital lives.
It’s obvious that the app has become more and more annoying and also changed it’s business model from a paid app, to a data collecting app like a lot of companies in the recent years. Notice how Microsoft doesn’t care anymore about people pirating Windows and how “generously” they gave away Windows 10 to Win 7 and Win 8 users? This wasn’t an act of generosity or altruism, the advertisement industry can generate much larger profits than selling your product for a fixed price and never hearing from the customer again. The same thing happened to WhatsApp. We’ll never know, if Windows 7 or the “paid” WhatsApp collected as much data as they do now, but they didn’t need to do that to generate money: They were selling product licenses, or their app.
Although the app is complete trash, from a privacy and UI standpoint at least, people still use it, simply because it was the “first” messenger that actually managed to get popular enough to be a household name, even with older, less tech savvy generations. This lead to the situation we’re in right now, WhatsApp is just too convenient to use, despite all the shortcomings, simply because of it’s giant userbase. There are great alternatives that are privacy respecting and are very comfortable to use, but none of the open source apps have what WhatsApp has: A big userbase, which is essentially the reason to use a messaging app. WhatsApp did, what Windows has done before: It became the thing that instantly gets associated with “Messenger” (or “Operating System” in the case of Windows), generally because of it’s year long popularity. It’s just an everyday thing. Everyone assumes that you use WhatsApp, your boss, your teacher, your insurance agent and even the support of your newspaper subscription. If people around here say that they’ll “message” you, they don’t mean a SMS message, they mean WhatsApp.
In summary the options are very limited: Either castrate yourself socially by not using WhatsApp and let your friends and family believe that you’re some kind of criminal or tin foil hat, because you want them only to contact you through a “special” messenger (like Signal or Matrix), or just keep going and hope that Facebook does something stupid enough to convince the public to stop using it (At this point I don’t even know what could potentially drive people away from it). It’s really weird and potentially dangerous that our lives have become so dependent on few thousand lines of code, but at the same time, as a person in my early 20s I’m certainly not ready to sacrifice my social life or career chances for an ideological cause like this.