Since the announcement, WhatsApp has delayed implementing the policy twice. While the policy rollout was initially delayed to May 15, the company recently announced that the implementation will be staggered. Fresh sign-ups and anyone who has already accepted the policy will now be sharing limited data with Facebook. Other users will, however, be prompted to accept the policy.
This prompt will become a persistent prompt after a few weeks of use, at which point the app will only allow incoming video and audio calls. Finally, if the user still does not accept the policy, the app will stop working altogether after a few weeks. However, WhatsApp hasn’t given a clear definition of the time period in question.
All this to say that WhatsApp has had to get into serious damage control mode to stem the tide of users jumping ship. At the time of the initial announcement, WhatsApp took to Twitter to debunk rumors and clarify exactly what was being shared with Facebook. In India, where WhatsApp has over 340 million users, the app took to front-page newspaper advertisements to explain exactly what data is being shared.
Which brings us to the question, exactly what data is being shared between WhatsApp and Facebook under the former’s new policy? Moreover, is there anything to be concerned about for the average Joe? Let’s take a look at the state of WhatsApp privacy and what data is collects on its users.
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What data will WhatsApp collect on you and share with Facebook?
Here is all the data that will now be shared when communicating with any of the 50 million business accounts on the platform:
- Phone number
- Device ID
- Transaction data
- Product interaction
- User identifiers
Presumably, most of this information will be used for better ad targeting. By parsing your transaction data and your location, Facebook can optimize advertisements for your interests. We’ve already seen this happen between Facebook and Instagram.
Now, with WhatsApp, the company should have even more granular data on one-to-one communication between you and a business. As an end-user, you should expect to see better advertisements across Facebook’s social platforms. The shared data will also allow a business to send you payment confirmations and transaction data over the messaging platform.
These data-sharing policies only apply to businesses that opt to use Facebook’s business hosting solutions. The company claims that conversations with such businesses will be clearly marked out with a label.
What data won’t be collected by WhatsApp?
- Private chats
- Private phone calls
- Message or call logs
- Contact information
- Shared location
- WhatsApp group information
We want to address some rumors and be 100% clear we continue to protect your private messages with end-to-end encryption. pic.twitter.com/6qDnzQ98MP
— WhatsApp (@WhatsApp) January 12, 2021
Simply put, no. If you have still not accepted the notification for the updated terms and conditions and you live outside European Union or the UK, the updated policy can be deferred for a few weeks. Pushing past May 15, users will be gradually cut off from the service. At first, usage will be restricted to just incoming calls. However, eventually, even that will be shut down.
That said, there is no change to policies around private communication. None of the changes apply to users unless they use the app for chatting with a business entity.
There’s no denying the fact that WhatsApp is deeply ingrained into everyday conversations in major markets like Europe and India. In fact, India alone contributes 340 million users to WhatsApp’s global two billion user base. However, will the updated policy be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Are you looking at switching over to more secure, privacy focused platforms? Let us know below.