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57% Indian WhatsApp users believe their chats are used to target ads: Survey


Around 57% of WhatsApp users in India believe that they are served advertisements based on their private chats, according to a survey by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society’s Centre for Competition, Investment & Economic Regulation.

The survey seeks to measure the extent of Indians’ understanding of end-to-end encryption and how much they value messaging privately. As chats on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted, Facebook  Inc. does not have access to the contents of users’ messages. The survey serves as a proxy to the perception of WhatsApp in particular,  since  every single one of the 2,113 respondents was a WhatsApp user. The respondents were from Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and the National Capital Region.

Low understanding of E2E encryption: Only 1 in 250 users is said to have an accurate understanding of how end-to-end encryption secures their messages.

Only 61% WhatsApp users think their chats are encrypted: Only 61% of users thought their chats were encrypted in the first place, a blow to WhatsApp’s efforts to educate its users

What’s end-to-end encryption worth? The report says that on average users are willing to pay around ₹1 a day for end-to-end encryption. For context, WhatsApp had an annual price tag of US$1 before its acquisition by Facebook. However, at that time, messaging on the platform was not end-to-end encrypted.

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The findings could spell trouble for internet users as consumers may be a lot less upset at losing protections from end to end encryption if they never believed they had them in the first place. This may also strengthen the government’s stand against the current implementation of end-to-end encryption, as it could claim that users don’t understand or value it enough for it to be deployed at a large scale by default.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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