[Update: Delayed] WhatsApp is updating its Terms and Privacy Policy, causing mass confusion

[Update: Delayed] WhatsApp is updating its Terms and Privacy Policy, causing mass confusion

Update 1 (01/15/2021 @ 03:15 PM ET): WhatsApp has announced that it is moving back the date by which people must accept the new terms of service and privacy policy. Click here for more information. The article as published on January 6, 2021, is preserved below.

WhatsApp users are receiving an in-app notice today regarding the service’s new terms and privacy policy. The notice, as you can see in the attached screenshot, talks about three key updates that affect how WhatsApp processes your data, how businesses can use Facebook-hosted services to store and manage their WhatsApp chats, and how WhatsApp will soon partner with Facebook to offer deeper integrations across all of the latter’s products. It further reveals that these changes will go into effect on February 8th, and users will have no choice but to accept these changes if they wish to continue using WhatsApp.


WhatsApp privacy policy update notification

The new terms and privacy policy update builds upon a similar change WhatsApp announced in July last year. However, in the previous update, WhatsApp gave users the option to “not have your WhatsApp account information shared with Facebook.” With the latest update, WhatsApp has done away with this option, and users will have to accept the new terms and privacy policy if they want to continue using the instant messenger.

If you agree to the changes, here’s all the information WhatsApp will share with other Facebook companies: “The information we share with the other Facebook Companies 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.”

The updated privacy policy further highlights how other Facebook companies may use the information collected from WhatsApp. This includes:

  • helping improve infrastructure and delivery systems;
  • understanding how our Services or theirs are used;
  • promoting safety, security and integrity across the Facebook Company Products, e.g., security systems and fighting spam, threads, abuse, or infringement activities;
  • improving their services and your experiences using them, such as making suggestions for you (for example, of friends or group connections, or of interesting content), personalizing features and content, helping you complete purchases and transactions, and showing relevant offers and ads across the Facebook Company Products; and
  • providing integrations which enable you to connect your WhatsApp experiences with other Facebook Company Products. For example, allowing you to connect your Facebook Pay account to pay for things on WhatsApp or enabling you to chat with your friends on other Facebook Company Products, such as Portal, by connecting your WhatsApp account.

The new WhatsApp terms and privacy policy change falls in line with Facebook’s larger goal of providing a more cohesive experience to users across all its services. But while the changes may help the company provide “better” services, it raises several privacy concerns that don’t bode well for Facebook’s “Privacy-Focused Vision” for Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Fortunately for users in the EU, these policy changes don’t apply as WhatsApp has to abide by the strict requirements of GDPR.

If you’re interested in reading more about the latest terms and policy changes, you can access the updated Privacy Policy by following this link.

Update 1: WhatsApp Delays New ToS & Privacy Policy

Last week, WhatsApp surprised many by showing an in-app message asking them to accept a new terms of service and privacy policy by February 8th, 2021, or leave the platform. The “key updates” highlighted by the company referenced how they “process your data” and how they “partner with Facebook to offer integrations.” The implied data sharing, a healthy dose of skepticism and lack of trust in Facebook, and WhatsApp’s failure to adequately explain to users what was changing resulted in a perfect storm of misinformation to circulate around the Internet. The backlash against the platform was so big that it propelled rival platforms like Signal and Telegram to the top of the charts on Google Play and the Apple App Store, with both platforms gaining millions of users in mere days. In fact, Signal’s recent popularity has proven too much for its servers to handle, resulting in some downtime earlier today.

Earlier this week, WhatsApp attempted to clarify its ToS and privacy policy changes, stating that the new terms do not affect the privacy of user messages or contacts. The company put out a length FAQ page to answer some of the more common concerns that people have raised in response to the ToS and privacy policy update, and many WhatsApp and Facebook executives took to social media to assuage concerns. In essence, WhatsApp is not expanding its ability to share data with Facebook but is rather clarifying how the company collects and uses data when a user messages a business. Since messages are end-to-end encrypted, WhatsApp is unable to see personal conversations. Furthermore, the platform says they do not keep logs of who you message or who you have added to your contacts, nor do they see your shared location.

But because concerns about the new ToS and Privacy Policy are still so widespread, WhatsApp today announced it has decided to postpone the date by which people must accept the new ToS and Privacy Policy. That new date is May 15, 2021. The ToS and Privacy Policy aren’t changing but giving users more time to understand them will help users decide if they want to ditch WhatsApp for an alternative or to stick to the platform.

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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