Facebook is going to start taking user data from WhatsApp

When the messaging app was bought by Facebook, the founder assured its users that their data would remain private. But that appears to be no longer so clear

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 25 August 2016 13:15
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Users can now mark messages as 'unread' on WhatsApp
Users can now mark messages as 'unread' on WhatsApp

WhatsApp is to start handing over user information to parent company Facebook, in a huge reversal of its previous policies.

The company has long been committed to ensuring that WhatsApp user data remains private – telling users when it was acquired by Facebook that “Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible”. But it has just announced that it will be making a change to those policies, allowing it to hand over information about its users to parent company WhatsApp.

The new changes to the terms and conditions allow Facebook to see the phone number that people use with their WhatsApp account. That gives them a way of tracking people that is shared across the two sites, helping Facebook gather data for ads.

WhatsApp says that the change has been made to help make the experience better for its users. But it might be a sign that the panic that set in with many people when Facebook bought WhatsApp – that private information and messages are going to be used for ads, which is Facebook’s primary business.

“But by coordinating more with Facebook, we'll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp,” the official blog post said. “And by connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them.

“For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you've never heard of. You can learn more, including how to control the use of your data, here.”

The company assured its users that its “belief in the value of private communications is unshakeable, and we remain committed to giving you the fastest, simplest, and most reliable experience on WhatsApp”.

WhatsApp encryption in 60 seconds

The company has added other features meant to keep messages secret, including end-to-end encryption. That update is also included as part of WhatsApp’s new terms.

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