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Millions of WhatsApp users migrate to Signal and Telegram

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(Last Updated On: January 13, 2021)

WhatsApp users this week flocked in their millions to other more privacy-based apps like Signal and Telegram after WhatsApp announced they will soon start sharing data with Facebook.

According to Telegram, they recorded an increase of 25 million users in the past 72 hours.

Signal’s Brian Acton said on Tuesday their new user base “exploded” this week.

Acton, who originally co-founded WhatsApp before selling it to Facebook, said Signal won’t sell its users’ data and that it won’t show its users ads.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp has now responded to the mass exodus of users and published an FAQ clarifying the terms of its updated privacy policy and responding to concerns that the firm behind the text-messaging app shares personal information with parent company Facebook.

WhatsApp noted the update doesn’t affect the privacy of messages with friends and family, and instead relates to messaging businesses through the platform.

The company also said the update “provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”

WhatsApp emphasized that neither it nor Facebook can see users’ private messages or hear their calls and that WhatsApp also doesn’t keep logs of who people message or call, can’t see your shared location (neither can Facebook), doesn’t share users’ contacts with Facebook and keeps WhatsApp groups private.

The publication of the FAQ follows calls from privacy advocates, concerned users and, notably, Elon Musk, to ditch the Facebook-owned messaging app and instead opt for encrypted messaging apps like Signal.

WhatsApp says personal messages are also protected by end-to-end encryption, but it has for years openly collected certain user data to share with Facebook.

However as experts explained, even WhatsApp has no means of accessing content in transit, while the messages on your phone are protected by the security of your device.

The issue is metadata – the who, when and where around your messages, as well as your contacts and information about your device.

WhatsApp does collect too much data, much more than the likes of Signal, Telegram and iMessage. But when compared to apps like Facebook, Messenger, Google, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, it collects very little.

So, unless you avoid those others, WhatsApp isn’t your biggest problem.

That being said, WhatsApp basically says the changes will mostly affect business accounts and people who chat with businesses, where the data will be used to apparently improve on the experience as well as help create more personalized ads.

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Ghani fires finance minister, appoints caretaker to the position

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday dismissed finance minister Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal from his post and approved a new acting minister, said the Administrative Office of the President (AOP) in a statement.

The AOP cited a number of reasons for this move including the delay in the collection of taxes, weak management, lack of commitment to good governance, not obeying Article 77 of the Constitution, violating Presidential decrees and directions, the lack of cooperation in an assessment of illegal appointments at the ministry and for trying to prevent the assessments, the statement read.

The AOP added that Ghani approved Mohammad Khalid Payenda as acting finance minister.

Arghandiwal was a close ally of Ghani during his election campaigns and was appointed as acting minister of finance in March last year. 

He received a vote of confidence from the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) in November last year.

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Biden to keep Khalilzad as peace envoy for now

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

Former president Donald Trump’s peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will retain his position, for now, three sources familiar with the matter told CNN. 

This move is not typical as traditionally an incoming administration replaces all politically appointed officials – especially those dealing with foreign policy issues. 

Khalilzad, a diplomatic veteran, has worked on the peace process for more than two years and has been the key official from Washington to meet with both the Afghan government and the Taliban as well as all other stakeholders and regional leaders. 

No further details were released and according to CNN the State Department did not comment when asked about Khalilzad staying on board. 

However, in a statement issued late Friday, the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib that the United States intends to review the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement.”

He also said Washington would assess whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.

Sullivan also expressed America’s desire that all Afghan leaders embrace this “historic opportunity for peace and stability.”

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Washington to review US-Taliban deal, Sullivan tells Mohib 

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib on Friday evening and said Washington intends to review the US-Taliban deal signed in February last year and to assess whether the Taliban is adhering to its commitments. 

In a statement issued by the White House following the discussion between the two NSAs, Sullivan said the US will support the peace process with “a robust and regional diplomatic effort, which will aim to help the two sides achieve a durable and just political settlement and permanent ceasefire”. 

Sullivan also made clear “the United States’ intention to review the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement, including to assess whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.”

According to the statement, Sullivan also expressed America’s desire that all Afghan leaders embrace this “historic opportunity for peace and stability.”

In addition, Sullivan and Mohib discussed the US’s support for protecting the gains made by Afghan women, girls, and minority groups as part of the peace process. 

Sullivan also “committed to consulting closely with the Afghan government, NATO allies, and regional partners regarding a collective strategy to support a stable, sovereign, and secure future for Afghanistan,” the statement read.

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