WhatsApp Users Can No Longer Avoid Sharing Data With Facebook
The WhatsApp Inc. and Facebook Inc. application are displayed along with other apps. (Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

WhatsApp Users Can No Longer Avoid Sharing Data With Facebook

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WhatsApp users will no longer have the option of opting out of sharing information with Facebook Inc.

When the popular messaging application last updated its privacy policy in July 2020, it gave users a month to opt-out from sharing information with its parent. Now, its updated privacy policy will offer no such choice.

That is one of the many changes to the more expansive updated privacy policy WhatsApp users are being notified of ahead of its rollout on Feb. 8. If users don’t accept the privacy policy before that, they will no longer be able to use the service.

The prompt for updated policy as seen on an iPhone. (Source: BloombergQuint)
The prompt for updated policy as seen on an iPhone. (Source: BloombergQuint)

Also read: Facebook Sees WhatsApp As Its Future, Antitrust Suit or Not

WhatsApp, founded by Jan Koum and Brian Acton, started as an ad-free, secure messaging service, helping it win users across the globe. Facebook acquired the platform in 2014 for $19 billion. Kaum, however, quit four years later amid differences with Facebook over data privacy—or using user data for targeted ads, media reports said at the time. Facebook went ahead with the plan to monetise WhatsApp.

The updated policy goes into much more detail on how user data is shared with Facebook, businesses on the platform and other third-party services.

According to the WhatsApp’s FAQs on privacy policy, the information it will share with Facebook companies includes:

  • Account registration information (such as phone numbers)
  • Service-related information
  • Transaction data, if users use WhatsApp Pay or purchase products through it
  • Information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using WhatsApp
  • Mobile device information
  • IP address
  • Other ‘Information We Collect’ or obtained “upon notice to you or based on your consent”

Facebook Companies include Facebook Payments, Onavo, Facebook Technologies, Facebook Technologies Ireland, WhatsApp, WhatsApp Ireland and CrowdTangle.

BloombergQuint awaits response to queries emailed to WhatsApp and WhatsApp India.

In its earlier versions of the privacy policy, WhatsApp gave existing users 30 days to go to their account settings and turn off sharing information with Facebook that would help the social media giant improve “Facebook ads and products experiences”. The upcoming policy does not have any clause specifying this choice.

WhatsApp’s earlier privacy policy, updated July 2020, that offered users the option to opt-out. (Source: WhatsApp)
WhatsApp’s earlier privacy policy, updated July 2020, that offered users the option to opt-out. (Source: WhatsApp)

According to the policy, WhatsApp shares information with Facebook companies to improve delivery systems, understand services used, promoting safety, fighting spam, improve user experience through personalised suggestions, and for relevant offers and ads, among others.

Messages are still end-to-end encrypted and are stored only on user devices as long as they are delivered with a double tick. WhatsApp says it stores messages on its servers when they are undelivered for a maximum 30 days. Thereafter, these are deleted from the servers too. When a user forwards media content, WhatsApp stores it "temporarily in encrypted form" to make further forwards more "efficient".

The policy, however, cautions that any information, including messages, you share with businesses on WhatsApp--including messages—will be processed under that particular business’ privacy policy. If that business is working with a third-party service, which could include Facebook, then they may also be able to access the information.

Other tweaks to the policy include more details on how businesses will be able to interact with users and broader definitions of information that WhatsApp collects.

WhatsApp has already started notifying users in India about the updated privacy policy with a full-page prompt when they first open the application starting Wednesday. Users are given brief pointers about the major changes and are required to accept it before Feb. 8.

Also read: WhatsApp Pay Vs Google Pay Vs PhonePe: Who Has The Edge?

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