Is Whatsapp payment secure after the Facebook data breach?

Last Updated: Tue, Apr 10, 2018 13:09 hrs
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Transferring money is no more of a hassle these days considering the availability of multiple instant messaging apps. From your bank that offers an IMPS based interface to process transactions in a matter of seconds to third party apps, a plethora of options are available to customers.

Whatsapp the instant messaging app's payments functionality is among a new entrants to the payments field. It competes against the likes of Google Tez and even Truecaller that offers a UPI based payment service.

Whatsapp's functionalities like transacting with peers and contacts via a Whatsapp interface appears cool. The availability of information on a single tap, and presence of brands in the form of registered businesses on Whatsapp indicates a developing eco-system. Many retailers use Whatsapp to reach out to customers with regular offers and it is convenient to make and receive payments. For instance, PVR cinema sends info about your movie tickets directly on your Whatsapp number.

But far away from all the ease are questions on privacy and security of the data that you share. The data about your transaction, your personal details, including your credit and debit cards.

Whatsapp complies with the India Payments Privacy Policy, but also shares information with other entities to help operate and improve the payments interface. If you were to transact via a Whatsapp interface your transaction details would be routed to third party service providers.

Doing so allows Whatsapp to improve security, detect anomalies, and constantly offer better customer service. Although there appears nothing wrong that a service provider tracks customer and works on the feedback, but the aspect of your banking or transaction details available with a third party service provider appears a contentious issue.

Among details that Whatsapp either stores or shares are mobile phone number, device identifiers, UPI PIN, payment amount, transaction details. The device identifier could include IP addresses, access to your contact details, files on the phone besides your geo-location.

In the event a debit or credit card were to be added to the app, Whatsapp could end-up storing details such as the card numbers, PIN number, and expiration date too.

The storage of crucial details may appear as a trivial exercise. But post the data scandal at Facebook that left the 87 million users exposed, the risk of a data breach is always looming large.

Whatsapp currently counts 220 million subscribers as regular users. The convenience it boasts and the loyalty it commands is miles away from well-heeled banks and financial service providers at the moment. New age payment processors like Whatsapp do have the capability of instantaneous payments. But security and the precautionary steps to avoid a data-breach are best reserved to one's imagination.

The company that was bought by Mark Zuckerberg for an astronomical $19 billion has steered clear of the Cambridge Analytica scandal saying it collects little data. But apparently it does share payments data with Facebook, the same company in news for data breaches.

Whatsapp does talk about end to end encryption, but it does sound farcical with its own admission that it shares data with its parent company.

Do share us with your experience of using Whatsapp as a payment app.

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