Why Viber decided to cut  all business ties to Facebook
Djamel Agaoua, CEO at Rakuten Viber, explains his company’s groundbreaking move
Why Viber decided to cut all business ties to Facebook
Djamel Agaoua CEO at Rakuten Viber (The Philippine Star) - August 29, 2020 - 12:00am

Through my years as CEO at Rakuten Viber, I’ve tried to steer one of the largest messaging apps in the world in a direction that prioritizes what is best for our users worldwide. When I joined the company in January 2017, we underwent the mission of advocating for the privacy and security of our users, and building a messaging application that has all the features that empower people to communicate with ease, and do so in the most secure way possible.

That’s why Viber has joined the growing number of companies that are cutting business ties with Facebook in light of #StopTheHateForProfit movement, the latest in an already long list of blatant mishandling of users’ data.

It wasn’t the easiest decision. Some of our users enjoyed Facebook Connect to upload their profile on Viber. While we rarely involve this social media platform in our marketing strategies even prior to the issue, our plans are now under review as we have pulled out all paid ads on Facebook in our campaigns. But we believe that this is the right thing to do, because Viber has always valued our users first and foremost. It would be a great disservice to them if we continued to pour money into a company that does not align with our values, a company that earns profit by exploiting their users.

I applaud the other companies who have joined the global boycott against Facebook by being cognizant of their critical role in protecting users’ interests, particularly at a time when people are online more than ever to connect with loved ones, to purchase needs, to make financial transactions, and to work from home.

While other tech companies are commodifying users’ data, Viber has stood its ground. Exploiting our users’ online activity for profit or gain will never sit right with me or with our entire team who work tirelessly to protect users at every touchpoint in the app.

We’ve never sold a single user’s profile to a third party or data firm, and we never will. We can’t read your personal chats including one-on-one chats and group chats or listen in on your audio or video calls. We can’t even access your messages since we use end-to-end encryption by default. This means that only you and the people you’re talking to can read or hear your private conversations. We didn’t stop there. We added more privacy features like hidden chats and disappearing messages, and we will continue to do so. And I’m proud to say that every effort has been worth it as we’ve continuously received overwhelming support from our users.

Viber’s latest data shows a significant increase in usage around the world, and across core app features. Group message numbers are up by 134%, the number of group calls received by an average user soared to 370%, while the number of Community engagement posted a 78% increase. There have been more daily active users, and people are making longer calls and sending more videos.

Even more gratifying is the number of new users registering in the app daily at 25% higher compared to the average – and in the Philippines that number is even better: 55% higher than average.

We have achieved this without compromising our users or their privacy. Tech companies with a global footprint like Viber do not have to trap users into thinking that they need to give up their data privacy in order to enjoy these services. We have the capacity to do that, and we have proven that it can work.

More importantly, Viber has shown that it’s feasible to earn a profit without selling users’ data. We do this through our well-thought-out brand partnerships and strategic business solutions that help improve the lives of our users—all without requiring us to put them at risk.

We believe that we are accountable to our users who trust Viber to be their digital link to the people who matter most to them, and we remain committed to ensuring that their trust remains strong and solid. By being vigilant about the partners we engage with, we move towards a more ethical future for them and for the rest of the tech world—one that does not merely see them as a string of data, but as real people wh0 should rightly be at the heart of what we do.

Djamel Agaoua is the CEO at the helm of Rakuten Viber, one of the world’s largest messaging applications.

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