WhatsApp forces users to agree to share private data including phone number with Facebook

‘This new WhatsApp privacy policy update is CREEPY and we should be concerned about it,’ one user warns

Anthony Cuthbertson
Friday 08 January 2021 17:43
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WhatsApp forces users to agree to share private data with Facebook
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WhatsApp will force users to agree to its new privacy policy within the next month, or else lose access to the app.

Agreeing to the terms will mean that a user’s private data, including their phone number, will be shared with Facebook, which owns WhatsApp.

All users must agree to the new terms by 8 February 2021, or else lose access to their chats and contacts.

The update comes in the form of an in-app notification, which users can choose to ignore until the date arrives. 

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“By tapping Agree, you accept the new terms, which take effect on February 8, 2021,” the notification states.

“After this date, you’ll need to accept the new terms to continue using WhatsApp. You can also visit the Help Center if you would prefer to delete your account."

WhatsApp initially refused to comment on the update but a spokesperson told The Independent that privacy policy updates were “common in the industry” and that users had “ample time” to review them.

The update is designed to “offer integrations across the Facebook Company Products”, which also includes Instagram and Messenger.

“There are no changes to WhatsApp’s data sharing practices in the European region (including UK) arising from the updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. For the avoidance of any doubt, it is still the case that WhatsApp does not share European region WhatsApp user data with Facebook for the purpose of Facebook using this data to improve its products or advertisements," the spokesperson said.

Data collected includes “battery level, signal strength, app version, browser information, mobile network, connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP), language and time zone, IP address, device operations information, and identifiers (including identifiers unique to Facebook Company Products associated with the same device or account)."

Some WhatsApp users criticised the new privacy policy on social media, with many saying they planned to move to a rival messaging app like Telegram.

“This new WhatsApp privacy policy update is CREEPY and we should be concerned about it,” one user wrote on Twitter.

With around 2.5 billion users worldwide, WhatsApp is by far the most popular messaging app in the world.

However, since it was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion, it has faced criticism for the way it handles users’ data.

WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum stepped down as the firm’s chief executive in 2018 due to a reported irreconcilable clash over Facebook’s decision to monetise personal data in the app.

An older version of WhatsApp’s privacy policy stated: “Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA. Since we started WhatsApp, we’ve aspired to build our Services with a set of strong privacy principles in mind.” 

This line is no longer present in the latest version.

The new policy also means that simply deleting the app from a device will not prevent WhatsApp from retaining a user’s private data. To ensure WhatsApp no longer continues to do this, users must instead use the in-app feature for deleting their account. 

The policy notes that even after using this delete feature, some data will remain with the company, stating, “when you delete your account, it does not affect your information related to the groups you created or the information other users have relating to you, such as their copy of the messages you sent them.”

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