WhatsApp highlights how it protects private messages as many migrate to Signal

WhatsApp highlights how it protects private messages as many migrate to Signal

Update (01/12/2021 @ 06:10 ET): WhatsApp’s privacy policy is vague about collecting and using shared location information, and sharing it with Facebook. Scroll to the bottom for more information. The article as published on January 12, 2021, is preserved below.

WhatsApp recently updated its terms and privacy policy to mandate data-sharing with all companies in the Facebook family. This created quite a stir among WhatsApp users worldwide, with many migrating to alternatives like Signal and Telegram. The policy change has also raised some concerns about Facebook’s agenda, and it has birthed some misleading rumors that have accelerated the outflow of users. In an attempt to clear the air, WhatsApp has now published a response to some of the most frequently asked questions about its privacy measures and data-sharing policy.


The Facebook-owned messenger recently updated its FAQ section with new responses highlighting how it will continue to protect private messages, despite some rumors stating otherwise. It states that the policy update “does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”

WhatsApp privacy infographic

A new infographic shared by the company highlights that WhatsApp cannot see private messages or hear calls and, therefore, neither can Facebook. It also reveals that WhatsApp doesn’t keep logs of who users are messaging or calling, it can’t see the shared location, doesn’t share contact info with Facebook, and that WhatsApp groups remain private.

As far as conversations with businesses are concerned, WhatsApp clarified that some businesses on the platform will make use of Facebook’s hosting services to manage WhatsApp chats. Such businesses will be able to use the information for their own marketing purposes, like running targeted ads on Facebook. To ensure users know when they’re communicating with such a business, WhatsApp will clearly label the conversation in the app. The company further adds that it will utilize users’ shopping activity to personalize their Shops experience, and if users interact with an ad on the platform, Facebook may “use the way you interact with these ads to personalize the ads you see on Facebook.”

While these responses do address some of the rumors floating around on various social media platforms (including WhatsApp), it may not be enough to sway public opinion. What’s your take on this issue? Will you continue using WhatsApp, or will you opt for other messengers like Signal or Telegram after the new policy changes go into effect next month? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Update: WhatsApp’s FAQ provides misleading information about shared location access

As you can see in the infographic attached above, WhatsApp clearly mentions that it “cannot see your shared location and neither can Facebook.” However, the company’s new privacy policy isn’t entirely clear on this matter. In the ‘Automatically Collected Information’ section of its new policy, the company notes:

“Location Information. We collect and use precise location information from your device with your permission when you choose to use location-related features, like when you decide to share your location with your contacts or view locations nearby or locations others have shared with you. There are certain settings relating to location-related information which you can find in your device settings or the in-app settings, such as location sharing. Even if you do not use our location-related features, we use IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location (e.g., city and country). We also use your location information for diagnostics and troubleshooting purposes.”

Although WhatsApp is clear about collecting and using your precise location information, the policy wording is a bit vague when it comes to collecting and using location info shared on the platform. On top of that, it’s also worth noting that while WhatsApp gives you the “choice” to turn off location access and not use any location-related features, the platform still collects your general location information using your IP address and phone number area code. As far as location sharing with Facebook and other companies is concerned, WhatsApp’s privacy policy notes:

“We work with third-party service providers and other Facebook Companies to help us operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services. For example, we work with them to distribute our apps; provide our technical and physical infrastructure, delivery, and other systems; provide engineering support, cybersecurity support, and operational support; supply location, map, and places information; process payments; help us understand how people use our Services; market our Services; help you connect with businesses using our Services; conduct surveys and research for us; ensure safety, security and integrity; and help with customer service.”

The policy clearly states that WhatsApp shares your location information with third-parties. So, if it is collecting shared location info, that’s obviously being shared with Facebook and other companies as well. If we give WhatsApp the benefit of the doubt here and believe the company’s claims of not collecting and using shared location information, the poorly worded and confusing policy will give the company the wiggle room to do exactly that without facing any legal repercussions in the future.

About author

Pranob Mehrotra
Pranob Mehrotra

A Literature and Linguistics graduate with a keen interest in everything Android. When not writing about tech, Pranob spends most of his time either playing League of Legends or lurking on Reddit.

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