Privacy And You: What You Sign Up For With The Most Popular Apps

We all know how important privacy policies are and this was highlighted recently when WhatsApp caused a bit of a stir after users agreed to its new policy before it was revealed that they handed over a little more data to its owners Facebook than many were comfortable with, which led to calls for clarification.

It’s a reminder that data sharing is the price we pay for free apps and services, so if that’s a trade you’re not happy with, it is worth checking the small print before continuing to use the service.  Though it’s no replacement for combing through it and checking it yourself, we’ve gone under the hood of some of the most popular app’s privacy terms to give an indication of what you’re signing up for.


Over two billion people use WhatsApp, so it was a high-profile PR disaster when their T&Cs in January 2021 was the subject of headlines. The new policy needed the user to consent to sharing personal data like phone number and location with their parent company Facebook if they wanted to use the service (before, it was optional). They clarified misinformation saying the new T&Cs were designed to make it easier to contact businesses. “While not everyone shops with a business on WhatsApp today, we think that more people will choose to do so in the future and it’s important people are aware of these services. This update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook.” That hasn’t stopped competitors like Signal from receiving a huge swell of new recruits from across the globe. Visit the WhatsApp website to find out more.


The big messaging app rival to WhatsApp has clear terms and conditions, made more straightforward by the fact it’s a non-profit entity. It means they don’t have to get into tricky explanations about how they work with advertisers. When it comes to holding personal information, it uses your phone number for registration and that’s it. And when it checks for your contacts, it does this via hashed phone numbers, so no information about the contacts is transmitted or stored on the app’s server. When it comes to your messages, the app has end-to-end encryption for all features, so that no one can intercept your messages. All of which means it’s one of the more private options, for now anyway. To find out more take a look at Signal’s terms and privacy policy.


iTunes are known for having terms and conditions so lengthy that it’s become the subject of a meme! Their privacy policy, however, links to Apple’s company-wide one. And when it comes to personal data, they explain it with notable transparency. They note that they only collect info that they need. If they share the data with other companies, they explain it will be to service providers, “partners” and “others” which gives them plenty of leeway if they need it. Still, on the whole, this looks like one of the better explained and more robust policies around. See Apple’s privacy policy here.


Not many of us appreciate the convenience/creepiness of discussing a topic in our smart homes only to find it pop up as an ad later, so the personal data around voice is something that many of us are concerned about. Amazon’s Alexa have responded to that by allowing the user to choose if they have their voice recordings saved or not. You can also choose to turn off other identifying features, like ones that tell family members apart. It doesn’t have any bearing on what the companies behind the Skills you’ve activated do with your voice, so if you’re privacy-conscious, be sure to read the privacy notices of the Skills you sign up to too. See Amazon Alexa’s terms of use here.


As TikTok is a Chinese company, there’s a hesitancy about its data collection, to the point that India banned it and the US threatened to do the same. But they’ve categorically stated that “we have not, and would not, give [data] to the Chinese government”. Still, the Washington Post found that the amount of data they collect is similar to the amount that Facebook collect – which is to say, a lot. Their privacy policy doesn’t shy away from their liberal approach to data sharing either. The app is popular with younger users, so parents will be happy to know that at least there’s tighter restrictions for under 13s that keep their personal info and activity relatively private. See TikTok’s privacy policy here.


Here at Switched On it goes without saying we treat customer privacy and data security with the upmost care and diligence. We have robust systems in regards to data management, and we will never sell your data to third parties. Take a look at our privacy policy here.


Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing, but as things can change, please refer to the individual company policies for the most up to date details.