Side effects of Public Administrations using WhatsApp


Or any other similar service, actually. Here is just one small example from Mumbai.

On June 30th, 2018, I saw this tweet by Mrs. Nidhi Choudhari

Side effects of Public Administrations using WhatsApp /img/whatsapp-mumbai.jpg
For complaints about roads, register with the WhatsApp Number...

that says: “Citizens can register complaints of road potholes on the WhatsApp numbers of MCGM road Engineers of all 24 wards as given in the attached advertisement…”

When installed, WhatsApp asks for access to the user’s location. It is safe to assume that most users just accept it without even looking (*).

Therefore, if a city administration asks to report potholes (or anything else) via WhatsApp, a foreign, for-profit company that makes money exactly by data analysis gets, free of charge, a complete map of all such potholes. Without even asking for it. Possibly, way before the city iself, if the WhatsApp reports are filed manually.

In this case of potholes in Mumbai, it is very likely that nothing bad happens, or will happen. In other cases, especially when dealing with personal data, things may be very different.

As a minimum, this potholes reporting service is a good, real-world case that all public officials should consider, before asking citizens to send data via any public social network.

(*) although thing may change if this real time tracking via WhatsApp becomes popular :-)

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