The launch of Facebook Pay on the WhatsApp platform in Brazil should prompt a debate over issues of digital surveillance, user privacy rights, the role of government and legislation concerning accumulation and commercial use of big data. Companies like Facebook have been looking to open new revenue streams and expand their operations. Since they do not charge subscription fees or advertise on platforms like WhatsApp, they rely on the commercial use of data that is accumulated through such platforms, to earn revenue. Facebook Pay will charge businesses a commission, thereby opening another stream of revenue for the tech giant.

The issue with superapps is that there is a danger of a digital panopticon coming into place, which tracks far more than users would be comfortable with. Where you shop, what you shop for, who you transact with, how often, when and for what – answers to these questions along with the rest of the personal data of users that companies possess means that concerns about privacy and exploitation are not unfounded. Apps like WeChat and Facebook can be very convenient for users since they can perform multiple tasks on a single platform, but they also run the risk of accumulation of data with one source. Data is information, and information is power. Therefore, the government has a role to play here.

Legislation should be passed that empowers users and gives them some level of control over information related to them. They should be able to demand from a tech company such as Facebook that what kind of data it possesses about said user, who has it been shared with and for what purpose. Users should also have a right to refuse. A blanket approval for data accumulation and sharing with ‘trusted partners’ is not sufficient. Bombarded by targeted advertisements, tailored by our own data and overexposure to cultivated trends and fads – how much of our choices are really our own anymore?