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Facebook’s hope that it could relax the privacy policy of WhatsApp, the world’s most popular messaging app, without kicking up a fuss, hasn’t worked,... Facebook Changes WhatsApp Privacy Rules Despite Promises Not To

Facebook’s hope that it could relax the privacy policy of WhatsApp, the world’s most popular messaging app, without kicking up a fuss, hasn’t worked, and has caused a worldwide backlash.



When Facebook bought out WhatsApp for $19 billion back in 2014, the encrypted messaging app’s CEO Jan Koum said, “Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing. WhatsApp will remain autonomous and operate independently.”

In fact, in a move that seemed to lend some gravitas to this move earlier this year, WhatsApp actually enabled end to end encryption for every user of the app, by default.

But now in what some have labelled a confusing move, Facebook said last Thursday it would soon be sharing user phone numbers with Facebook, helping Facebook in effect start to monetise the messaging juggernaut.

The move will allow Facebook to target advertisements and friend recommendation  across the social media network:

“We want to explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you, too, while still giving you an experience without third-party banner ads and spam,…Whether it’s hearing from your bank about a potentially fraudulent transaction, or getting notified by an airline about a delayed flight, many of us get this information elsewhere, including in text messages and phone calls. We want to test these features in the next several months, but need to update our terms and privacy policy to do so.”

And so, for the first time in 4 years, WhatsApp is seeing a change to its terms and privacy policy. In fairness the above quote seems, well, fair enough, but it’s the next section that has some people worried about just what Facebook intends to do with all the data it will gather from sharing information with its messaging app:

“Facebook and the other companies in the Facebook family also may use information from us to improve your experiences within their services such as making product suggestions (for example, of friends or connections, or of interesting content) and showing relevant offers and ads.”

A spokesperson for CNIL, the French data protection commissioner said in a statement:

“Each European authority will be following the changes made to WhatApp’s privacy policy with great vigilance. What is at stake is the control of individual users over their own data when they are combined by major internet players.”

At the moment, while all the above is cause for privacy advocates to have concern, in real terms, nothing has actually changed yet.  The world will have to wait and see just quite how WhatsApp chooses to go ahead with the data sharing move.

The company intends to begin testing before the end of the year.