To help you find friends and improve your Facebook ads and product experiences, the world’s most popular instant messaging app is going to share your personal information – including your phone number and your contact list – with its parent company, Facebook.
“We won’t post or share your WhatsApp number with others, including on Facebook, and we still won’t sell, share, or give your phone number to advertisers. 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.
“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.”
When Facebook bought out WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, Jan Koum, co-founder of WhatsApp, “set the record straight”:
“Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA… and we really have no plans to change that. If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it. Instead, we are forming a partnership that would allow us to continue operating independently and autonomously.”
When it recently introduced end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp reassured us that “when you and your contacts use the latest version of the app, every call you make, and every message, photo, video, file, and voice message you send, is end-to-end encrypted by default, including group chats.”
However, WhatsApp seems to have gone back on the assurances, and naturally, has provoked global ire. Pamela Clark-Dickson, analyst at tech consultancy firm Ovum, told BBC:
“When WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook it was able to reassure users that it would remain independent. Now it’s giving Facebook phone numbers – some might say that’s a betrayal of trust. In a small way, it has gone back on what it said it wouldn’t do.”
You only have a 30-day window to stop WhatsApp from sharing your number with Facebook. If you haven’t accepted the new terms of service, tap on the smaller “Read more” option below the green “Agree” tab, and uncheck the box that reads “Share my WhatsApp account information with Facebook…”
If you have already updated WhatsApp on your mobile phone or agreed to the new terms and conditions, go to the “Settings” menu and click on the “Account” tab. There, you’ll find need to uncheck the “Share my account info” box. Congratulations, you have successfully revoked your permission, as well as secured your privacy, for the time being!
The UK’s Information Commissioner (ICO), Elizabeth Denham, is looking into WhatsApp’s latest policy update to ensure it complies with the Data Protection Act; a company that breaks the Data Protection Act can be fined up to £500,000 by the ICO.
“Some might consider it’ll give them a better service, others may be concerned by the lack of control. Our role is to pull back the curtain on things like this, ensuring that companies are being transparent with the public about how their personal data is being shared and protecting consumers by making sure the law is being followed. While organizations did not need to get prior permission from the ICO to change how they handle personal data, any change had to remain within data protection laws.”
Meanwhile, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) claims WhatsApp’s new terms of service violates a Federal Trade Commission consent order which requires the company to clearly obtain opt-in consent before asking users to agree to the new terms of service. The privacy group, writes Engadget, is also planning to file a complaint against WhatsApp and Facebook for violating statues of the Federal Trade Commission act that warns against “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”
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