WhatsApp latest policy update – What does it mean to you?

WhatsApp Privacy Policy

WhatsApp is one of the most widely used mobile apps. Many of the elders are now using smartphones mainly because of WhatsApp. Whenever something major happens in WhatsApp, it will be discussed everywhere – including the numerous groups in WhatsApp. During such a discussion, I was asked whether I will be moving to Telegram or Signal instead of WhatsApp due to the recent changes. So I thought of digging a bit more on the recent changes to decide on the next steps. SO HERE YOU GO…

What is changing in WhatsApp?

WhatsApp updated their privacy policy and it is set to be implemented on 8th February. The revised privacy policies are mandatory to accept before February 8, 2021 if you wish to continue using your account. One of the major concerns I see in many news/discussions is that “new policy will allow WhatsApp to share the data with Facebook which is going to affect our privacy.”. This is not fully correct.

WhatsApp latest update does not change data-sharing practices with Facebook. Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp, confirmed this via Twitter. “It’s important for us to be clear, this update describes business communication and does not change WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices with Facebook. It does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family wherever they are in the world,” he said.

WhatsApp’s previous policies also state that it shares information with Facebook. For example, in 2019’s policy update, they said “Facebook and the other companies in the Facebook family also may use information from us to improve your experiences within their services such as making product suggestions (for example, of friends or connections, or of interesting content) and showing relevant offers and ads. However, your WhatsApp messages will not be shared onto Facebook for others to see. In fact, Facebook will not use your WhatsApp messages for any purpose other than to assist us in operating and providing our Services“.

One change I noticed in the new policy is that the following statement which is there in the previous policy(Last modified: December 19, 2019) is not there in the new policy statement. “If you are an existing user, you can choose not to have your WhatsApp account information shared with Facebook to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences. Existing users who accept our updated Terms and Privacy Policy will have an additional 30 days to make this choice by going to Settings > Account.

I think I disabled the sharing feature before, but I don’t remember correctly and I do not see that option in my account now. My guess is that they may have removed that option after 30 days of the policy change. So it is almost the same as the current policy – no option to disable sharing the data with Facebook.

Based on the current WhatsApp FAQ, they currently share certain categories of information with Facebook Companies. This includes your account registration information (such as your phone number), transaction data, service-related information, information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using our Services, mobile device information, your IP address, and may include other information identified in the Privacy Policy section entitled ‘Information We Collect’ or obtained upon notice to you or based on your consent.

Another major change is Business on WhatsApp. It says “When you message with a business on WhatsApp, keep in mind that the content you share may be visible to several people in that business. In addition, some businesses might be working with third-party service providers (which may include Facebook) to help manage their communications with their customers. For example, a business may give such third-party service provider access to its communications to send, store, read, manage, or otherwise process them for the business. To understand how a business processes your information, including how it might share your information with third parties or Facebook, you should review that business’ privacy policy or contact the business directly.

So, if you are communicating with a business account on WhatsApp, they can use the communication with them based on their privacy policy. For example, they use the data to show ads etc. in Facebook or any other platform.

So overall, all the policy changes are not directly related to the chat messages you send/receive with your personal contacts or groups. As of now, personal chat messages are not shared with anyone else. But except the actual conversation, almost all other data, which is as powerful as the conversation data, is collected and used.

Am I planning to delete my WhatsApp account and going to use other apps like Telegram or Signal?

Well, nothing is decided yet. Facebook is collecting much more information. So I am not much sure about suddenly deleting WhatsApp account and completely moving to another platform. I am already using Telegram(not much for chatting/messaging) and have now created an account in Signal also. I have concerns about Telegram’s security/privacy so I am thinking about using Signal. I will decide after some more testing.

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