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?
Here is all the data that will now be shared when communicating with any of the 50 million business accounts on the platform:
- Phone number
- Device ID
- Transaction data
- Product interaction
- 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?
- Private chats
- Private phone calls
- Message or call logs
- Contact information
- Shared location
- WhatsApp group information
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.
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.