WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messenger that claims to have privacy coded into its DNA, is giving its 2 billion plus users an ultimatum: agree to share their personal data with the social network or delete their accounts.
Share and share alike
Shortly after Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, its developers built state-of-the-art end-to-end encryption into the messaging app. The move was seen as a victory for privacy advocates because it used the Signal Protocol, an open source encryption scheme whose source code has been reviewed and audited by scores of independent security experts.
- User phone numbers
- Other people’s phone numbers stored in address books
- Profile names
- Profile pictures and
- Status message including when a user was last online
- Diagnostic data collected from app logs
Under the new terms, Facebook reserves the right to share collected data with its family of companies.
In some cases, such as when someone uses WhatsApp to interact with third-party businesses, Facebook may also share information with those outside entities.
A lack of transparency
The move comes a month after Apple started requiring iOS app makers, including WhatsApp, to detail the information they collect from users. WhatsApp, according to the App Store, reserves the right to collect:
- Financial information
- User content
- Usage data and
A WhatsApp spokeswoman declined to speak on the record about the changes and precisely how or if it’s possible for users to opt out of them. She agreed to email additional information on the condition it be kept on background, meaning none of the details can be quoted verbatim.
The move, the spokeswoman said, is part of a previously disclosed move to allow businesses to store and manage WhatsApp chats using Facebook’s infrastructure. Users won’t have to use WhatsApp to interact with the businesses and have the option of blocking the businesses. She said there will be no change in how WhatsApp shares provides data with Facebook for non-business chats and account data.
Post updated to add details in the third-to-last paragraph.