WhatsApp will force users to share data with Facebook through new privacy policy


(Illustration photo by Jakub Porzycki / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

UPDATE: The new privacy policy will actually not affect WhatsApp users who decided to stop sharing data with Facebook when the option was available in 2016, the company told PCMag.

In other words, the company will continue to honor the opt-out, even if you accept the new policy. The deactivation status should be saved in the upload your data feature, which can be found in the Account settings tab.

Original story:

WhatsApp says you’ll soon have no choice but to share your data with parent company Facebook if you want to continue using the service.

The messaging app has released a new privacy policy, which goes into effect on February 8. “After that date, you will have to accept these updates to continue using WhatsApp,” the service told users via an in-app alert that asks them to accept the policy.

If you don’t agree, the same alert subtly suggests you delete your account.

The new privacy policy
(Credit: WhatsApp)

The upcoming change will disappoint WhatsApp users who want to minimize data collection from Facebook, a company that faces repeated privacy controversies. In 2016, WhatsApp let you not share data when it came to fueling ad targeting and “product experiences” for Facebook.

However, the deactivation came with one condition: you had to activate it within the first 30 days of signing up for the service. (Even if you did, WhatsApp could still share your account data with Facebook for the purpose of “operating and providing” the messaging service.)

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy does not offer such an option. It is also unclear whether WhatsApp intends to resume data sharing for users who previously turned the deactivation on. We’ve asked Facebook to comment and we’ll update the story if we have any news.

Meanwhile, the new policy specifies the type of information it can collect and also share with Facebook and its affiliates. The data includes your WhatsApp account phone number, your profile name and photo, who you communicated with and the financial transactions you made through the app.

“We share your information to help us operate, provide, improve, understand, personalize, support and market our services,” WhatsApp adds in the privacy policy. This will include sending recommendations from friends, personalizing content, and displaying relevant advertising offers on different Facebook products.

Despite the new policy, Facebook told PCMag that the policy update was primarily for business messaging. So in practice, there is no change in the data shared with Facebook for non-professional chats and account information, the social network said.

Specifically, the updated policy is designed to address a company’s messaging on WhatsApp. Facebook will give businesses the option of using Facebook’s secure hosting infrastructure to host WhatsApp chats if they don’t want to store the messages on their own systems.

Additionally, Facebook said that the choice not to participate in data sharing was originally made in 2016 as a one-time option. Since then, the functionality no longer exists in the app for new users. Nonetheless, the opt-out choice has been mentioned in WhatsApp’s old privacy policy for the past four years. It’s only now that the service is finally removing the language after embarking on a strong global privacy policy update, the company told PCMag.

The new policy comes as Facebook strives to integrate WhatsApp with the rest of the company’s messaging ecosystem. However, messages sent through the service will remain end-to-end encrypted, which means that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can read them.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify Facebook statements.

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