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back to article Facebook pays $19bn for WhatsApp. Yep. $45 for YOUR phone book

Putting a man on the Moon cost less than what Facebook paid for WhatsApp, a generic chat app. So why is Facebook paying $45 per user to gain functionality it already has? The silly numbers look even sillier when you consider Facebook's own Messenger only lags narrowly behind WhatsApp in terms of usage. Facebook Messenger …

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Yes, the HSCIC is at pains to point out that they won't make any profit selling our data.

Which seems to be missing a trick. If you are going to collect our data and pimp it out to private companies, at least sell it at market rate and put the profit back towards the health services you stole the data from.

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Mushroom

A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

Facebook / WhatsApp. I don't use either, I can't see the point, and gathering from comments on here, most IT literate punters don't either.

But you can't argue at the numbers, 450m have given their telephone number to WhatsApp. Assuming these have to be checked at sign-up, that's 450m valid numbers. Plus 680m mobile Facebook users (I guess there will be some overlap), that's possibly a billion users. Add voice functionality to WhatsApp / Facebook mobile app and that's 1/7th of the world population talking/texting that you can tap into, literally or figuratively.

el capitano Zuck has some serious political clout if he wishes to wield it.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Yes, quite.

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@Jurrasic Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

The article mentioned that WhatsApp also slurped your phone book, so its 450m users times the numbers in their phone book.

So suppose you don't use WhatsApp, but a friend or associate does.

They now have your phone number.

Suppose someone at your company has the company phone directory on their smart phone...

It just got slurped.

The really interesting thing is that when they say the founder is persnickity about security, yet talk about how insecure the app is... how does that equate? Or am I missing something?

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Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

Actually it's worse than that. WhatsApp uploads all contacts in your address book. This means Facebook get your number, but also the numbers and email addresses of all your mates.

When Facebook looks at WhatsApp, I think all they see is a data mining wet dream.

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With the health data, we get some benefit from the selling of the data (cash), but the overall benefit should take in to account (hopefully) the new and improved drugs that can be produced from researching the data, which should give "us" a net benefit; we'll be healthier for longer.

Not as much of a benefit as the owners of the biotech companies buying the data I suppose.

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@Tom 38

Absolutely - putting financial barriers in front of people using this data for medical research purposes is utterly self-defeating if our aim is for medicine to be developed rather than us to turn a buck. I'd rather an extra year of life than a new coffee table.

As for the benefits to the biotech companies buying the data, exceeding the benefits to us, I'd say that these benefits aren't really easily commensurable. You can say an extra year of life is worth £10k or £30k but some people would pay £1bn for the privilege. In any case the sooner the medicines are developed, the sooner the patents will run out and we'll get access to these as generics, for pennies.

As long as the companies concerned don't 'develop-in' horrible side-effects or deliberately diluted health benefits, which 'new' versions of the medicine merely ameliorate... after all who would do such a thing...

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Healthier for longer?

The new (expensive) drugs may prolong our lives, but we won't be any healthier. We'll be sick, but just postponing death. Big Pharma isn't interested in making us healthy - that requires prevention - they just want to milk our wallets while we take longer to die.

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Anonymous Coward

You really think drugs make you healthy?

Ah yes, the good doctor has said so. It must be true.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

FB and their ilk have their uses but it's like buying a chainsaw. If you really have to have it then make damn sure you buy the right protection gear and understand that if you use it then at any moment the bloody thing will happily wreck your life if you're not paying attention to it!

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Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

OH MY GOD!!!! They know my phone number and maybe even my address. This means that they can control me, all my actions, what I spend, how I vote, they can take my children into slavery and start a world war of they want.

Frankly, SO WHAT? I could not begin to count the number of web sites I have signed up to which have all sorts of unimportant, low level data about me. And exactly what benefit do you think they will get from learning I phone my wife when I am working abroad. (Actually, mostly I use Skype because UK mobile phone networks charge so much I just rip the SIM out of the phone when I get on a plane)

And as for medical records, please give them away. If my records, Hadoop and R and Bioconstructor can come up with a cure for some cancer, some element of heart disease or Parkinson's or something, I am delighted and would not expect to get any reward more than a footnote in Cell or Nature.

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Unhappy

Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

" 450m have given their telephone number to WhatsApp"

And the contents of their phone books. One day people like me will be known, simply because we will be among the few sheep that do not use this stuff. Perhaps I ought to go off grid and live in the mountains of some American backwater. Yeee haaaaaaaaa.

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Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

You don't see the point in WhatsApp? How about if you need to message someone in another country regularly in a chat context? Say, you have a girlfriend living abroad for example. Paying to SMS abroad all the time would be huge cost. So there, you see a point now, just because you have no use for such a service does not mean you have to be IT illiterate to have a use for it. How about people start looking outside of their own little world before they see no point in things.

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LDS
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Re: @Jurrasic A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

And if in slurping your phonebook - which today doesn't contains phone numbers also - they get also alll other data that links phone number to emails to other applications IDs (i.e. Skype and others) to locations (addresses) to contact names, you are able to access many informations some people didn't handle you ot that could be very difficult to easy link down to a single "entity" - through their friends or acquaitances.

Google does the same, or Microsoft, through their "backup & sharing across devices" services on the "cloud"... the only reason they offer those services for free it's you handle them very valuable informations. And once you handled your data to someone else, there's a good chance they will end in some "big data" database even if you try to give some contacts detail only to some people you "trust", the problem now is you can't trust their devices because they are designed to slurp data and send them to their creators. Legislator should enforce an opt-out flag for this kind of data, but even if they were spyed fron NSA they don't understand how many data are collected through devices.

While someone keeps on downvoting here anybody who points this out, it has to be someone from Google & C.... maybe even a bot - or someone who looks alike the three monkeys that don't want to see, hear, talk... because for him spamming his friends with useless messages to show he has a smartphone is more important to protect our privacy.

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Gav

Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

"OH MY GOD!!!! They know my phone number"

You need to look a bit further than the obvious to see the implications of this. The fact that you don't is exactly what the likes of Facebook rely on.

They don't just know your phone number. They know your phone, and by extension where your phone has been. They know who you know. They know where they've been. They know what you've shown an interest in, they know what your friends/colleges/relatives are interested in.

They are then going to sell that to any company who wants it. From that point onwards, each of these company you contact, for any reason, knows way more about you than you've actually chosen to divulge. They know just how good a customer you may or may not turn out to be. They have a pretty good idea of what you might pay for things, and just how likely you are to go to a competitor. When it comes to your relationship with that company, and any negotiations involved, the balance is skewed way over in their favour. Because they already know everything and you know nothing.

Don't really want you as a customer? Quote higher prices. Do want you? Lower. Reckon you're loaded? Higher. Know you're already likely to go elsewhere? Lower. Likely to influence a lot of friends' purchases? Lower. Billy no-mates? Higher.

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Paris Hilton

Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

"Say, you have a girlfriend living abroad for example."

That is just an imaginary situation in your head. What you have is an ex-girlfriend living abroad, banging some Italian stallion, and instead of video call, where you might get a glimpse, she pretends to you in some scuzzy text messaging app.

Paris, she could tell you all about it.

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The new and improved ?

New and improved drugs? I am not sure if you have been paying attention. When is the last time you heard about a drug company coming up with a cure? They have no interest in cures, and they don't want you to be healthy.

The drug companies operate exactly the same way any other drug dealer does.

They want you to be just healthy enough that you can continue to pay for their drugs, and sick enough that you need to take (and pay for) their drugs every day for the rest of your life!

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Anonymous Coward

The biotech companies want the medical data to figure out which are the most prevalent illness that don't yet have cures so they can invest R&D capital on those areas (more $$$s in sales) as opposed to investing a cure for an illness which only a relatively minor number of people have... meaning less $$$s in sales.

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Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

Yes, if only there was a way to send a message to someone without using SMS. Thank god that Whatsappthingy came along. It's annoying having to rely on SMS all t

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LDS
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Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

You can do it without giving away your whole phonebook including data of people who trusted you an don't expect you give their data away also, just to chat with your foreign girlfriend... maybe contacted in some lonely-man-meets-girlfriends-abroad site...

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LDS
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Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

1) The more informations you give away about you, the more ways they'll find to use them *against* you, to extract as much money as they can from you....

2) If ever they develop a cure for cancer, they will make you pay it dearly even if you gave away your data for free. It's all about money, not helping people. But I guess from data they understand they need to invest more in viagra-like drugs, not curing cancer - especially from those textting their "girlfriend" abroad...

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Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

Sure, you can use Whatsapp to send texts to someone in another country. You can also use Skype, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, BBM or many other services to do the same thing.

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Reselling the data

> HSCIC is at pains to point out that they won't make any profit selling our data

So how is this squared with the policy at the Ordnance Survey? There, immensely valuable data have been collected (and generated) using taxpayer's money. The last time I looked, mapping data wasn't being offered on a non-profit basis. The NHS has, on the taxpayer's dime (sixpence, maybe), collected a lot of valuable data. Why can't it make a profit on its re-use?

It's just occurred to me... personal data is defined in the Data Protection Act as that relating to living individuals. The moment an NHS patient dies, the medical data relating to them is therefore not protected as personal. Data for dead folk is possibly even more valuable for medical research. That's forced to be a business opportunity, right there.

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OTT?

> OTT chat apps

Please excuse my dimness, but what does "OTT" stand for in this article. Google suggests "Over The Top" but does this make sense in this case? Over The Top of IP, is it? Isn't IM the conventional acronym for this sort of thing?

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Re: OTT?

"OVER THE TOP adverb [1935] colloquial (chiefly British). Usually with hyphens: To an excessive or exaggerated degree; beyond reasonable or acceptable limits; too far." Source - http://www.wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=22352

It's commenting on the fact that some simple chat apps also do voice and video, far beyond what they actually need, or were designed, to do.

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FAIL

Re: OTT?

Search Google for OTT. First hit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Over-the-top_content

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Re: OTT?

Search Google for OTT. First hit.

Missing the point? That's what he said, that the only thing he found is "Over The Top" and it isn't how any of us would describe IM apps on smartphones.

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Re: OTT?

From the Wikipedia article:

"Over-the-top messaging refers to a similar idea, where a third party provides instant messaging services as an alternative to text messaging services provided by a mobile network operator."

Sounds like an exact match for WhatsApp.

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Re: OTT?

> it isn't how any of us would describe IM apps on smartphones.

Think iMessage. It looks like SMS but with Apple's all-knowing eye understanding when both ends are an iphone (and therefore linked to its servers) it redirects the message over 3g data via its own servers, cutting out the telco.

The prize is unique id's - phone numbers are quite handy for getting a handle on who is where. Redirecting traffic to your own servers gives you more data to mine and if you are replacing phone services, reduces your users' costs. The reason VoIP doesn't do well is the complexity of gateways to PSTN and the need to sign-up to a service which duplicates one you already have. OTT providers can avoid the problem if they have a very large database of who is online. If they can link people over data then they know they can do that, otherwise they let the call go via PSTN, with no fancy extra service required.

That's why skype is so keen to get your address book too - they can also provide the gateway service, redirecting per-use revenue to themselves while putting the cost of providing the network on the mobile network provider. With a phone number identifier, they barely need you to create a hotmail login for id.

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Re: OTT?

"Over-the-top content (OTT) refers to delivery of video, audio and other media over the Internet without a multiple system operator being involved in the control or distribution of the content."

OTT refers to something like Netflix or Youtube (which is video sold and distributed over the top of your broadband network, not via the phone companies or cable companies themselves), as opposed for instance to Virgin Media or BT Vision's own video on demand services.

It's not much of a stretch to extend this to messaging services. SMS messaging is a service provided by your mobile phone company. WhatsApp or Facebook messenger is provided "over the top" of the services provided by your mobile phone company (i.e, data connectivity).

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Re: OTT? (but what does "OTT" stand for in this article)

Adult TISWAS with tits and balloons. Balloons because it's like a big bubble and tits because that's what it will go up like.

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I certainly don't qualify as an idiot - I don't have a Facebook account (and have never had one, so Facebook have absolutely nothing on me) and have disabled the Facebook app on my phone so that we don't have any "accidental" data slurps.

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Facepalm

You don't need a FB account,

you just need to have given your name, phone no., address, etc to someone who does allow social network hucksters access to their contacts/address book, and your data has been slurped for resale.

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Anonymous Coward

I assume then that you have banned everybody else who has your name, address, phone number, email address from ever letting facebook, twitter, whatsapp, linkedin etc from uploading their contacts to put them in touch with people?

Facebook et al probably have enough data about you already to determine where you live and work, what your phone number is and who your acquaintances are.

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Happy

Data mining

> Facebook et al probably have enough data about you already to determine where you live and work

Behold! My leet skillz reveal a high probability that the OP is Alan and he lives and/or works in Northamptonshire. There are no prizes for guessing my real name from this post, so you needn't try.

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While I can't argue with the conclusions in the article

I do wonder if Facebook is also engaging in a reflexive land-grab: here's a competitor, or something that might become a competitor, eat it before it becomes a problem.

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Devil

Re: While I can't argue with the conclusions in the article

"embrace, extend, extinguish"

Now where have I heard that before?

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Re: While I can't argue with the conclusions in the article

I agree -- I think the main purpose is defensive. Although I don't think they see WhatsApp itself as a competitor, it would be a good social network to base a Facebook competitor on, so they want to buy it before someone else can.

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Re: Communication, Communication, Communication

"Will he be the Rupert Murdoch of communications,"

Dunno, I'll Google it.

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Pint

I've poisoned my phone book

I don't use my Android for actual phoning (I've an iPhone for that), so I've laced my Android phone book with all sorts of hilarious contacts and dangerous telephone numbers.

Poison chalice.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I've poisoned my phone book

Yeah that was worth doing...

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Re: I've poisoned my phone book

Instead of moaning do it too! The more people do it the more effective it becomes. Time to hack some SOAP UI reqs.

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Trollface

Re: I've gone one better

I grab all my family and friends' phones and add little Bobby Tables as a contact.

Facebook is about to have a big data-loss problem.

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Go

Re: I've poisoned my phone book

"Yeah that was worth doing..."

Actually, the idea of an address book honeypot feeds my funny - if amusing himself by creatively thinking up ways to f**k Zuck is a waste of time, what does that make posting on Facebook (and after all I waste more than enough time doing that.

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Re: I've poisoned my phone book

You're obviously some kind of fucking idiot. Seriously. You have two kinds of phone but you "don't upload" to one just to spite them? And you believe the Almighty Hallowed Be Thy Name Apple is somehow better?

It takes a SPECIAL kind of zealot to do the shit you do. But here's good news: you haven't made ANY difference whatsoever.

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Facepalm

Re: I've poisoned my phone book

I really wish I had that much free time!

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LDS
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Re: I've poisoned my phone book

You just gave your data to a different company....

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Looks like

people are leaving WhatsApp in droves, at least in Germany.

Threema has jumped from nowhere (around 10,000 downloads) to overtake Modern Combat 4 with over 500,000 downloads this morning.

I've spoken to several people and about half of them are looking at jumping, a third aren't worried, WhatsApp is easy and the rest don't use WhatsApp or Facebook, so don't give a hoot.

I sent my German step daughter an SMS this morning "Welcome to Facebook, resistence is futile", her answer was that she had already deleted WhatsApp and was looking for something else...

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