A Cautionary Tale of WhatsApp, Meta and Data Mining LizardMen

AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File

The oddest and kind of really disturbing thing happened to me this week and I thought I'd share it with you all. Partly to see if you'd noticed similar occurrences or to give you a heads-up if you hadn't.


I'm just really getting tired of the intrusiveness in what's supposed to be "private" in our lives. Now, I know I'm going to hear how hopelessly naive I am from you guys, and I can take it. For those of you tender souls lurking out there who didn't know such things happened on a scale of this sort, maybe you'll learn a trick to stave off the fingers of evil sooner than I did.

It starts with WhatsApp. 

Remember how that used to be the "secure," "private," "coppers can't make me break it" encrypted messaging app? Quite a few of us - maybe you, too - switched to it years ago. Its very simplicity, privacy, and security were the selling points. Unless you knew and accepted a contact, you couldn't be pinged, there weren't pop-up bubbles everywhere, it was easily managed, and the company wasn't data-mining your chats and contact lists to sell and pad their bottom line or hand over to the feds.

Pictures you'd taken and shared stayed within the app (and where you'd used them) unless you made the conscious decision to download them to your phone's gallery or wherever. Numerous warnings popped up as you did so, reminding you that everyone would be able to see what you were now transferring out of the app's security.

It couldn't get any simpler, and after the federal cell phone data scandals and shameless snooping intrusiveness of the Obama regime, utilizing it was an act of active resistance to an increasingly lawless federal government.


That confidence in WhatsApp was abruptly snuffed out in 2014 when the biggest online offender, guilty of continual surveillance, data mining, censorship, and suppression, forked over $19B to purchase the app - Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

Most of my little contact list swapped to Signal within months, as we all had zero confidence Facebook (now Meta) and its Lizard-like founder were capable of keeping their paws off of the customer information contained within WhatsApp.

I did, however, keep the app on my phone thanks to Ebola being on active duty and overseas. He hasn't been stationed in the States for over twelve years and we keep as many lines of communication open as possible for safety's sake.

So there it sat, and I rarely looked at it until a few months ago when I started getting notices about this chat I was part of.

Excuse me?

I got into the app and someone had added my number to some big group chat string - without my knowledge or permission. An annoying as hell bitcoin spamfest and I could not find a way to get out of it or block it.

That was my first clue that something had radically changed on the once uber-user-friendly, "secure" app.

Wasn't I royally pissed off to find that you cannot "block" a chat you've been added to. Isn't that nice of Meta? You can mute it, but you can't block it on your own phone.


I muted it.

But it was still there, which is annoying af in itself.

Now, doing this job, I find all sorts of whack things online and take all kinds of screenshots I might use later, as you guys may have noticed. So, in my phone gallery, there are a fair amount of text items that I didn't necessarily pay attention to at the time, thinking they were screenshots of tweets, CNBC charts, etc. Those also transfer to the phone link on my desktop.

What wasn't transferring to the big 'puter and what I didn't notice in my tiny phone gallery array were the 148 Bitcoin transaction snapshots that had been downloaded along with sundry other personal photos from people I've never met. I freaked out at first, thinking my phone had been hacked.

I also didn't want POTATUS and his wealth vultures coming after me, a humble innerwebs scribe, for being a Bitcoin millionaire. Hello. I'm not - they're not my transactions.

But after a few deep breaths, I remembered to check the specs on the pictures and saw every last one of them was a WhatsApp download. My brain went immediately to the group chat I'd muted, but I couldn't block or delete, which was apparently still alive and well, sending me pictures of Dior boutique purchases and beaucoup bucks financial moves.

What a creepy, intrusive, maddening pain in the asterisk.



The first thing you have to do is get into your settings and hit the button yourself to not allow anyone but your contacts - or anyone at all should you so choose - to add you to group chats. 

That's one terrific change Meta has made to an app that used to be customer-centric. Now the customer is required to jump through the "privacy" hoops to make the app "private" - a feature that once was a given and the entire point of using WhatsApp. Mind you, I had to go hunting for answers and, from what I found, this is a real problem.

Thank you, Lizard Man.

Before I "exited" the group - which is as close as you can come to blocking it - I had to open the chat (scary in itself), identify all the admins (there were 17), and one by one initiate a conversation with them to block them.

All 17 were blocked, one by one, like I had all day. Thank you again, Lizard Man.

Keep in mind this would have been a futile gesture had I left out blocking a single admin or not gotten into my settings page to reset who could add me to groups. Had either of those things occurred, that group would still be plaguing me. 

It's bad enough I am still forced to look at it on my contact page. Meta enforces insult to injury.

For those of you who knew all this ages ago, congratulations. For those of us who weren't informed about the changes to something we've used - or not used - forever, I hope I've done someone a service.


Meta has perverted a simple, secure concept into a convoluted, insecure nightmare over which the user now has little control over what appears on their own cell phone, particularly if unversed in the new rules.

I do believe it's only going to get worse as Meta wants to really start monetizing the platform, and you know what that means.

"Paying off" is Meta preying on customers by data-mining in every way possible.

What's encryption when Lizard Man's minions have the keys?

Yeah, "delete the app" is the simplest answer if you care about any of this.

And I'm going to - right after I get a few Bitcoin tips before I delete these pictures...

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