WhatsApp's new privacy policy: What you may not know


As of February 2016, WhatsApp had a user base of one billion, making it the most popular messaging application. It has so far been free. But as per its new terms of services, from August 25, 2016, it may change the term ‘user’ to ‘product’. Jan Koum, WhatsApp’s co-founder, is of the view that “when advertising is involved, you, the user, are the product”. Under the new terms of services, WhatsApp will no longer be an advertisement-free application.

Founded in 2009 by Koum and Brian Acton, with the promise of providing advertisement-free service to its users, WhatsApp became the most popular messaging application in the world. Koum, though in his own words was against making profit out of selling companies, sold WhatsApp to Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion. Advertisement-free service was a part of the acquisition agreement. Analysts, however, had been waiting for a major policy change since the takeover.

Most users have already received an alert on the new WhatsApp privacy policy. The alert also gives a link to read about the terms of the new privacy policy. The main policy change is: WhatsApp will now collect and share customer information with its parent company, Facebook, to improve the Facebook ads and product experiences. The users who ‘agreed’ to the terms and conditions without reading the ‘terms and conditions’ have also given a 30 day time if they want to opt out of the new privacy policy. They only need to go to settings > account > share my account info in the app, and uncheck the box on share your information.


The new privacy policy is the main change after the introduction of end-to-end encryption to every form of communication on WhatsApp. This time, however, WhatsApp has given new 'terms of service' an image of low priority. So, many users agreed to the terms and conditions without reading it. Even though the policy says, “if you do not agree to our privacy policy, as amended, you must stop using our services’, WhatsApp has not given a clear picture of what will be the fate of the user who avoided agreeing to it. Under its terms and posted policies, WhatsApp can disable the account for not agreeing to the terms.


Many users came to know about the big change only after a protest started on the social networking sites. Most of the users started to uncheck the ‘share information’ part of the policy. And there has also been an increase in the number of users migrating from WhatsApp to other messaging applications.

Other than collecting basic information like mobile number and email address, WhatsApp from now on will collect information about the users activity (such as how they use WhatsApp services, or interact with others using WhatsApp services), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website and performance logs and reports. WhatsApp will also collect device-specific information when a user installs, accesses, or uses its services. This includes information such as hardware model, operating system information, browser information, IP address, mobile network information including phone number, and device identifiers.

Another main change is collecting information about users’ online status. WhatsApp will share such information with Facebook “for improving the quality of the service”. Analysing the information can give a clear picture of the personality of the user.

WhatsApp will allow the user and third parties, like businesses, to communicate with each other, such as through order, transaction, and appointment information, delivery and shipping notifications, product and service updates, and marketing. For example, the user may receive flight status information for an upcoming trip, a receipt for something purchased, or a notification on when a delivery will be made. Messages the user receives could include an offer for something that might interest the user—another loophole for promotional advertisements, the last thing a WhatsApp user wants in their app.

WhatsApp still does not allow third-party banner ads. But if the user uses WhatsApp services in connection with third-party services, like a share button on a news service to share a news article with contacts, groups or broadcast lists, the third-parties’ own terms and privacy policies will govern the user’s use of those services. It may defeat the purpose of “not allowing third-party banner ads’.


Some users may not feel the need to keep privacy or mind reading some ads in the app. But with the information collected, the app developers can study the patters and behaviour of the user and create a pattern of marketing to influence the user. Uninstalling the app will not stop the developer from using the already shared information. So if most of its one billion users agree to WhatsApp’s new privacy policy and allow it being shared with Facebook, the information it will generate will be immeasurable. The reality is that “information is knowledge and knowledge itself is power”.

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Topics : #WhatsApp | #Facebook

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