TBS: Why has privacy become the most significant concern for instant messaging apps?
DA: It's self-evident – no one wants their data or personal messages to go public. It means everyone wants their conversations and other personal information to remain discreet so that it cannot be viewed by the public, third parties, local authorities, and the developer itself. Such urge of the users, combined with concerns surfacing these days because of WhatsApp's policy change initiatives, has made the issue of privacy for instant messaging apps more conspicuous.
DA: It's now as clear as day that Facebook has been mishandling user data over the years, and on top of it, WhatsApp has recently expressed their desire to share users' data with its parent company (Facebook). Such a decision is enough to put all the users' data in jeopardy. It is outrageous for a company to do something like this when they claim 'respect for your privacy' is coded in their DNA and are using end-to-end encryption (E2EE) since 2016.
Meanwhile, they exhibit double-standard morality as Niamh Sweeney, Director, Policy for EMEA, WhatsApp, has stated on Twitter that users from Europe don't have to worry about their data being shared with Facebook, at least for advertisements. Doesn't it point out that users' data from the rest of the world does not significantly impact them because of the absence of any strict regulation like GDPR?
Furthermore, in the face of widespread criticism, WhatsApp has changed their standpoint, which clearly explains that the organization is not sure about its policy and goals.
On the other hand, WhatsApp has stated in their blog about ways users could discover businesses, and Facebook may use these ads' data to personalize for future ads. WhatsApp is also saying that Facebook cannot access users' data due to E2EE.This is confusing and transparent.
Moreover, according to WhatsApp's latest update, the company has stated that it will give users time to accept the new policy. The deadline to accept the new policy is May 15, 2021. Those users who will not accept it by the deadline will be given a grace period to make and receive calls but not send or receive any messages. However, they didn't clarify what will happen when the grace period ends. What will WhatsApp do then? Will they delete the users' accounts? They were not cleared with their explanation.
All these are creating confusion and as their policy is not transparent, it will be wise for the users to shift to other instant messaging platforms where their data will not be accessed unethically.
TBS: Does Viber ensure safety for its users and if yes, how?
DA: It is mentionable that Viber's policy does not differ from region to region. User privacy is essential, and Viber emphasises protecting their data. To that end, we provide E2EE (end-to-end encryption) to everyone worldwide, no matter where the user lives. Their conversations and information are not for sale. Our E2EE is by default.
The E2EE is a system communication that only can be read by the senders and the receivers. No one, not even the developers, can access the cryptographic keys that are needed to decrypt the messages. Viber's server works as an illiterate messenger to pass along the message, which can only be deciphered by the intended device – sender and receiver.
TBS: How instant messaging apps like Rakuten Viber generate revenue?
DA: We have found multiple creative ways to generate revenue, and it has been working great for us. Unlike numerous other platforms, Viber's vital income sources are not advertisements, but instead, its business messaging. Various companies globally pay monthly fees to us to send messages to their subscribers. Those companies need to be verified by Viber to send any messages. We also only get less than 20% income from advertisements. Viber will not collect any public data without the users' consent, and private messages are encrypted, so there is no way for anyone other than users to view the information.
TBS: What is Viber's next move for APAC region especially for Bangladesh?
DA: We are always striving hard to grow positively, and the process introduces new features tailored to the users' preferences. We are doing all these because we want to establish Viber as a 'lifetime app' for cross-sections of people so that they can communicate with their near and dear ones conveniently without any concern for privacy or any other thing.
Meanwhile, we empower organisations to join the communities and chatbots to interact with customers securely. Several entities, namely ICT Division, EBL, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, UNICEF Bangladesh, and many more, have already created their chatbots to interact with their customers. Even during the pandemic, Viber has played its bit by collaborating with some organizations to disseminate critical information related to COVID-19.
Bangladesh is a very potential market with more and more people becoming dependent on technology for everyday activities and the government planning to build a Digital Bangladesh. We want to stay beside Bangladesh in this journey and be a part of the digital transformation the nation is going through. That's why we are focusing more on improving our app to keep up with the demands of the local market.