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WhatsApp Is Going to Share Your Data With Facebook. Here’s All We Know About It


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Last Updated on 18/01/2021 by Hrithik V

It was long expected that Facebook’s $16 billion investment in WhatsApp would lead to a monetization strategy. Judging by the latest WhatsApp privacy policy controversy, it looks like we’re finally headed in that direction.

WhatsApp announced changes to its privacy policy in January 2021 that ignited a data security and privacy conversation. As a result, many users are now switching to more private messaging apps like Signal and Telegram. In fact, downloads for Signal, the privacy-first messenger, jumped 4,200% week-on-week, with the app clocking 7.5 million installs globally in the first week of January 2021.

All this to say that WhatsApp has had to get into serious damage control mode to stem the tide of users jumping ship. WhatsApp took to Twitter to resolve the 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 collected on its users.

What data will WhatsApp collect on you and share with Facebook?

WhatsApp has come out and cleared the air around its updated privacy policy. The policy, which was originally intended to come into effect starting February 8, 2021, before a three-month delay was announced, applies only to business communication. The changes apply only if you opt to communicate with a business that integrates with WhatsApp.

Here is all the data that will now be shared when communicating with any of the 50 million business accounts on the platform:

  1. Phone number
  2. Device ID
  3. Location
  4. Transaction data
  5. Product interaction
  6. 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?

WhatsApp Is Going to Share Your Data With Facebook. Here's All We Know About It 1
Image Credits: WhatsApp

Contrary to rumours, WhatsApp is not snooping on your private conversations. Your private one-to-one chats and, for that matter, even group chats are all end-to-end encrypted. None of this data can be looked into by WhatsApp nor is it shared with Facebook. This won’t change when the updated privacy policy comes into effect. WhatsApp does not have access to any of the following data identifiers:

  1. Private chats
  2. Private phone calls
  3. Message or call logs
  4. Contact information
  5. Shared location
  6. WhatsApp group information

The updated privacy policy makes it clear that changes to data sharing with Facebook only apply to business communications. WhatsApp further addressed its updated privacy policy and what is and isn’t shared in a blog post which you can read here.

Can I opt-out of the WhatsApp privacy policy?

Simply put, no. While you can delay the notification for the updated terms and conditions, unless you live in the European Union or the UK, the updated policy goes into effect starting February 8. As of now, it isn’t clear if the app will stop functioning if you do not accept the policies.

Opinion: Why is everyone still giving Instagram a free pass?

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.

What do you think about the updated WhatsApp privacy policy?

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 focussed platforms like Signal? 

24 percent of users in India said they and their groups are considering moving to other platforms when asked on a survey. The survey had received overall more than 24,000 responses from users of Whatsapp based in 244 districts of India. 91 per cent of WhatsApp users also said that they will not use its payment features if it shares payment and transaction information with Facebook and third parties. WhatsApp saw a 35 per cent decrease in downloads in India, from 2 million between January 1 and 5 to 1.3 million between January 6 and 10, as per Sensor Tower. In comparison, Signal’s 24,000 Indian app downloads between January 1 and 5 increased to 2.3 million between January 6 and 10. Likewise, Telegram, which had 1.3 million downloads during that period were up to 1.5 million between January 6-10. According to LocalCircles, Whatsapp may see its 60 million users going away, as per the survey findings, based on the assumption that 400 million smartphones in India currently have WhatsApp installed.

Hrithik V
Hrithik V
Hrithik is a gaming enthusiast and a privacy activist. He loves spending time researching content and technologies and articulates content for a mass audience with simplicity.
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