In a quick turn-around, WhatsApp claims that user concerns are based on misinformation while failing to address its past history of sharing data with Facebook

Facebook is struggling to deal with a high volume of users migrating away from its messaging platform WhatsApp after a change to its terms and services agreement. The changes were widely unpopular, leaving users to opt for messaging app rivals Signal and Telegram.

WhatsApp, which has over 2 billion users worldwide, has since attempted to clarify the impending privacy policy changes that will give data to Facebook, its parent company, as part of a bid to increase monetization.

Following the changes in WhatsApp’s privacy policy on January 4, Signal saw 7.5 million downloads worldwide, up from 250,000 in the previous week. 

Signal also benefited when Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, took to Twitter where he urged his followers to “Use Signal”.

In sharp contrast, WhatsApp saw 9.7 million downloads in the week following its announcement, in sharp contrast to 11.3 million downloads in the prior week.

Telegram also saw a growth in its users following the WhatsApp controversy, with downloads reaching 9 million following WhatsApp’s privacy policy change, up from 6.5 million in the previous week. In one message shared with all its users on Tuesday, Telegram announced that the messaging app had exceeded 500 million users.

Hasty defence

Migrating users believe that WhatsApp’s new privacy regulations allow for the sharing of sensitive data and message content with Facebook for the first time, resulting in a correction by the company.

In a statement shared on Monday, January 11 2021 WhatsApp claimed that the new privacy laws coming into effect on February 8 “does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way.”

But while neither Facebook nor WhatsApp will have access to messages, WhatsApp’s privacy policy already allows it to share user data with Facebook since 2016.

In the upcoming update, Facebook and WhatsApp will be able to share payment and transaction data to further its push for monetization and e-commerce. Merchants will be able to communicate with customers through WhatsApp, with said chats stored on Facebook servers. The data from these chats will in turn be used for better advertising on Facebook.

Several Facebook executives took to Twitter to defend the changes, including Adam Mosseiri, CEO of Instagram. 

“There is a lot of misinformation about the WhatsApp terms of service right now,” he said.

This comes after Facebook initially promised that it would not require WhatsApp to share data with Facebook when they first acquired the messaging app in 2014.

Signal, created by non-profit was co-founded by WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton who left the company after disagreements revolving around data privacy and Facebook interference. 

Business as usual

But in spite of the clarification, users are upset with WhatsApp giving them an ultimatum: agree to share data with Facebook, or stop using the app.

More critically, while WhatsApp continues to maintain that it does not share private data with Facebook, it admits to sharing contact lists, general location, financial information, usage data, and unique phone identifier in addition to other metadata. This data may be linked to your identity according to WhatsApp’s disclaimer on Apple’s App Store. 

While WhatsApp’s user-to-user encrypted messages remain unaffected in its latest policy change, Facebook’s increasing involvement with WhatsApp doesn’t seem likely to reverse course anytime soon.

Source: TRT World