WhatsApp by Facebook stock photo 2
TL;DR
  • Previously, changes to the WhatsApp privacy policy caused controversy. The company stuck to a May 15, 2021 rollout, though.
  • Now, the company is loosening the restrictions surrounding that date, giving a longer indeterminate grace period.
  • However, you are still going to need to accept the terms, eventually.

Update, May 7, 2021 (12:26 PM ET): When we originally posted the article below, we based our information on one statement from WhatsApp. That statement appears to say that not accepting the new privacy policy changes won’t result in an account suspension or deletion. Although the company clearly stated it will follow up with people for “several weeks” if they don’t accept, there was no mention of any repercussions for not accepting.

Now, WhatsApp has added more clarity to the situation that will no doubt ruffle some feathers. In its FAQ, WhatsApp discloses that users who don’t accept the new privacy policy by May 15 will eventually “encounter limited functionality on WhatsApp until you accept the updates.” Specifically, that means:

  • You won’t be able to access your chat list, but you can still answer incoming phone and video calls. If you have notifications enabled, you can tap on them to read or respond to a message or call back a missed phone or video call.
  • After a few weeks of limited functionality, you won’t be able to receive incoming calls or notifications and WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to your phone.

In other words, the May 15 deadline is actually still active. It’s just that repercussions for non-acceptance of the new terms will happen slowly over a period of weeks, rather than all at once.

The bottom line here is that you will need to accept the new WhatsApp privacy policy at some point soon in order to continue using the service. Of course, you could just leave WhatsApp instead.

The original incorrect interpretation of the news is preserved below.


Original article, May 7, 2021 (10:00 AM): A few months ago, WhatsApp announced some significant changes to its privacy policy. Although nothing about the changes was too outlandish, they did allow for better integration with the company’s parent, Facebook. They also allow businesses better ways to keep in touch with customers through the platform. These two aspects of the new policy caused privacy advocates to get upset, which somehow snowballed into a mass exodus from the platform.

During the height of the backlash, the company stood by its intentions to change the WhatsApp privacy policy. However, it eventually relented and pushed the date of the rollout to May 15, 2021. On that date, anyone who didn’t agree to the new terms would get an account suspension and, eventually, deletion.

See also: WhatsApp vs Telegram vs Signal: Which messaging app should you use?

Now, though, it appears the company is dropping plans for that May 15 deadline. According to a tweet from The Press Trust of India (via XDA-Developers), WhatsApp will no longer stick to the May 15 cutoff and will not suspend/delete any users who refuse the new terms. It doesn’t appear that the company has a new deadline date, either, putting the whole controversy to rest for the moment.

WhatsApp privacy policy: What now?

The company had this to say in a statement:

While the majority of users who have received the new terms of service have accepted them, we appreciate some people haven’t had the chance to do so yet. No accounts will be deleted on May 15 because of this update and no one will lose the functionality of WhatsApp either. We will follow up with reminders to people over the next several weeks.

From this statement, it appears that users who don’t want to accept the terms can continue to use WhatsApp indefinitely. The app will continually remind users that they need to accept the new terms, but rejecting that alert won’t result in any penalties. Obviously, those alerts will likely get annoying, and a percentage of those folks will probably eventually accept.

Related: How to backup WhatsApp: Never lose a message again

However, the users who have already accepted the new terms are still bound to them. All that changes today is that there are no longer fears that non-acceptance of the WhatsApp privacy policy changes would result in account deletion.

We’ll need to wait and see if the company eventually rolls out a new date once the controversy fully dies down. By then, though, it may be too late, as thousands of people have already migrated to competitor platforms, such as Telegram and Signal.