Now On Sale: Your WhatsApp Data

Now On Sale: Your WhatsApp Data

Chloe Seaman
September 30, 2016

The creators of WhatsApp once stated in a 2012 blog post: “Advertising isn’t just the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought.”

They gave users the expectation of an ad-free messaging platform – proudly stating their engineering efforts go toward fixing bugs and adding new features, not “writing better code to collect all your personal data.”

As they said it: “That’s our product and that’s our passion. Your data isn’t even in the picture. We are simply not interested in any of it.”

Ironically, WhatsApp recently announced it would be sharing some user information, such as phone numbers and usage metrics, with its parent company, Facebook. In updating their terms and privacy policy, WhatsApp begins plans to “test ways for people to communicate with businesses”.

This means the information they collect will be used to show users more targeted advertisements and better friend suggestions on Facebook. It also means users will start getting messages from companies “tailored” to them personally.

In 2014, Facebook acquired WhatsApp. At the time of the acquisition, WhatsApp creators wrote a blog post ensuring users that “nothing” would change for them.

This change has reignited concerns around privacy – and how supposedly “free” services like WhatsApp and Facebook continue to collect its user’s personal data for profit. Some might consider personalized, relevant ads an enhancement of the service, while others will feel the move is an invasion of privacy. So, how should WhatsApp users think about the change?

Privacy campaigner, Aral Balkan, weighed in on the case against such a move:

“If we continue to delude ourselves that companies like Facebook and Google are somehow forces for good in the world instead of factory farms for human beings—and unless we start regulating them as such—we are going to have our human rights eroded one policy update at a time, like slowly boiling frogs.”

However, as a WhatsApp user, you do still have some control of your privacy.

If you don’t want your phone number to be shared with Facebook for example, you can choose to opt out before agreeing to the new terms. If you already agreed to the new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, you have 30 days to opt-out. Read the WhatsApp instructions on how to opt-out here.

So what seems to be the general consensus? Tech news site Gizmodo summed the news up by saying, “The sentiment that WhatsApp is an app that protects and cares for your privacy is no longer a reality. It was nice while it lasted.”

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.