Hans D. Baumeister

Hans D. Baumeister

WhatsApp App for iPad - a Warning

If you use an iPad with an excellent keyboard as I do, then a strong desire to use WhatsApp on the iPad rather than on the iPhone with its completely unusable on-screen keyboard is a natural result.

Until recently, WhatsApp was only installable on the iPad using various tricks, as the communication software is supposed to be locked to a particular ID (the mobile number). With the advent of WhatsApp software on the Mac (and on Windows) that connects to the mobile phone via a unique 2-D barcode identifier, a mechanism was created to make an online version of WhatsApp possible.

This online version is accessed - from an iPad or any other internet-connected tablet - via
https://web.whatsapp.com which makes the well-known interface available in the web browser (likely running on HTML5, but I haven't looked). The connection to the phone is made - just like with the software - via a 2-D barcode.

It works quite well, albeit being a bit slow in scrolling and selecting emoticons (on an iPad Air 2). So far so good. Of course, a thought crosses one's mind once the elation has ebbed back to normal levels: "if they can display all my message contents in a web browser, who says they can't read them, too?". I'll have to research that a bit more, I guess for now I'll have to believe that decryption is done on the iPad… hmm…

So if there is software for Mac (and PC), Facebook could have released an iOS iPad app, right? Off to the app store I went. A Facebook-authored app isn't available, but there are apps that bring WhatsApp to the iPad just the same.

I'm willing to bet that all these apps do is provide an iFrame-like mechanism to "beam" the web.whatsapp.com site into an app and add advertising (and an optional in-app purchase to remove it). Do you need that? No, certainly not. These apps do not add any value on top of what Facebook offers in the original http site. I'm sure the other, available apps work in the same way - they all have the exact same interface as the web app, sometimes with different colors (which you can change via CSS).

No value is added for the user, but there is plenty of additional value for the app developer, of course. Take this app as an example: "
iPad Messenger for WhatsApp - Free by Internet Rocks Inc." If you go on the developer website (https://internet-rocks.com/), you will not find a company address ANYWHERE. Not even in the Privacy Policy or the Terms and Conditions. I'm not a lawyer, but I will bet a tenner that this makes these documents quite irrelevant.

Read the section 1.1 of the
Privacy Policy on the website. The app collects data. Lots of it. Stuff that you don't want a company to know that doesn't even disclose their whereabouts on the planet. When you download the app they get even more data about you (such as your email address).

And they don't even have to keep your data to themselves! In section 2.2d you read that they may share your data "with third party advertising networks and analytics companies as described below." They do go on to state that no personally identifiable data is passed to ad networks or advertisers. Do you believe that, reading it in a privacy policy that doesn't even disclose the address of the programmer?

Honestly, I'm shocked this app slipped through Apple's quality check!

There is zero need for this app, as anyone with a halfway modern tablet (HTML5-browser) can use the website provided by WhatsApp.
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