Tesla and SpaceX CEO, and X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk
© AFP / Apu GomezTesla and SpaceX CEO, and X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk
Meta's messaging service is not secure, the tech billionaire has said

Elon Musk, owner of X (formerly Twitter), has again attacked WhatsApp over its handling of personal data.

On Saturday, Musk commented on a post on X, in which a user asked: "If WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted, why am I seeing ads for a bag out of the blue?"

The entrepreneur offered a short answer to the question, saying: "Because it's spyware."

Musk had already engaged in an online spat with WhatsApp, which is owned by Mark Zuckerberg's Meta conglomerate, this May. At the time, he responded to another post on X, which claimed that "WhatsApp exports user data nightly, which is analyzed and used for targeted advertising, making users the product, not the customer."

"WhatsApp exports your user data every night. Some people still think it is secure," the Tesla and SpaceX CEO said, referring to longstanding concerns about data sharing between WhatsApp and Meta's other platform, Facebook.

The exchange was noticed by WhatsApp's head, Will Cathcart, who tried to defend his platform's conduct.

"Many have said this already, but worth repeating: this is not correct. We take security seriously and that's why we end-to-end encrypt your messages. They don't get sent to us every night or exported to us," Cathcart said in his post on X.

However, security researcher Tommy Mysk, who also joined the debate, clarified that while messages on WhatsApp might be end-to-end encrypted, "user data is not only about messages."

"The metadata such as user location, which contacts the user is communicating with, the patterns of when the user is online, etc. This metadata according to your privacy policy is indeed used for targeted ads across Meta services," he said.

"So, Elon Musk is right," Mysk, who had previously uncovered data vulnerabilities in TikTok, Facebook and Apple's products, wrote.

In 2022, when he was still in the process of purchasing Twitter, Musk argued that Zuckerberg had too much control over social media due to Meta owning Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. He called Meta's CEO "Mark Zuckerberg XIV" in reference to France's "Sun King" Louis XIV, who apocryphally claimed to be the state itself and was known for his wealth and authoritarian power.

In 2023, the two tech billionaires were on the verge of holding a cage match against each other, but the bout never happened. Relations between Musk and Zuckerberg deteriorated even further after Meta launched Threads last summer, with the platform, which offers a space for real-time online conversations, being seen as a direct competitor to Twitter. Threads garnered 100 million users in the first days after launch, but the public's interest in the app quickly subsided.