Big Technology

WhatsApp Head Will Cathcart Dishes on Signal, India, and Apple

‘If you’re talking about break encryption, it’s really hard for me to imagine being comfortable with it’

Alex Kantrowitz
OneZero
Published in
22 min readMar 5, 2021

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Will Cathcart

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Will Cathcart runs WhatsApp, the 2 billion user app that’s the de facto tool for messaging and calling for many across the globe. Cathcart joins the Big Technology Podcast to discuss Facebook’s feud with Apple, its battle with Signal, its bungled privacy update, new laws in India that might force it to break encryption, and the way it thinks about content moderation and advertising.

Alex Kantrowitz: What is going on between Facebook and Apple? I checked out WhatsApp on the iOS App Store yesterday and found 22 different data items that Apple says you collect. Do you see Apple’s privacy labels as a direct attack against Facebook?

Will Cathcart: Regardless of whatever the purpose of the labels was, we compete with iMessage from Apple, we compete in the U.S. — where way more people use iMessage than use WhatsApp — we compete in a bunch of places around the world. You don’t see a label for iMessage when you download it because you don’t download it, it’s on your phone to begin with. And so, we were critical of that.

Apple said it would put the privacy label for its Messages app on its website.

They said they’d put it on their website. It’s on their website if you can find it. But even there… Not to use this metaphor, but what’s apples to apples? We have payment information because we have an optional feature for you to use payments in India, if you want to. Apple has payment features and you can send a friend money through iMessage. Our label says we have payment information, iMessage’s doesn’t, what’s the difference? Why does ours say and theirs doesn’t?

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Alex Kantrowitz
OneZero

Veteran journalist covering Big Tech and society. Subscribe to my newsletter here: https://bigtechnology.substack.com.