WhatsApp Concedes to Facebook’s Data Mining Practices

WhatsApp + Facebook — We called it.

Apparently, 18 months is the time frame. That’s the time it takes for the biggest social media network in the world to whittle down the staunch stance it’s small, yet still giant, messenging service took on user privacy. Almost 18 months ago, to the day, Facebook announced that it acquired the popular messenger app. Shortly after, WhatApp promised that user privacy would remain a priority.

None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that.

Today, however, Whatsapp updated their privacy policy and announced that it will begin sharing users’ phone numbers and analytics. This announcement is, understandably, causing some strife between WhatsApp and its users. This change is not really a big surprise though, because UTB kind of called it.

WhatsApp continues to promise that your privacy matters, and is still a priority. They preach about their end-to-end encryption, and speak with conviction about how not even they can’t read your messages. But with the news that they will be sharing phone numbers and other “data,” some users are finding it difficult to maintain that trust.

Why the change?

Facebook will, reportedly, be using the phone numbers shared by WhatsApp to offer “better” friend suggestions and “more relevant” ads.

WhatsApp’s purpose for this increased flow of your personal information is to increase connectivity with businesses. It’s an experiment. They state this will allow for receipts, flight information, or shipping updates to be delivered within the app. Sounds like a neat trick, but it still makes me wonder what the man behind the curtain will be doing.

UTB recommends using BBM, but if WhatsApp is important to your work/life/family flow there is hope. Tucked away in the news of all the updates is one key piece of information:

If you are an existing user, you can choose not to have your WhatsApp account information shared with Facebook to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences. Existing users who accept our updated Terms and Privacy Policy will have an additional 30 days to make this choice by going to Settings > Account.

Read the full Privacy Policy.

The New York Times reports this announcement has already prompted some organizations to plan on legal action. A privacy advocacy group based in Washington DC plans to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission to stop WhatsApp from sharing this information. That’s the national stage. The flow of information across nations’ borders may raise a whole new host of issues.

We will likely see even more assurances about the safety of users’ privacy from WhatsApp and Facebook as this plays out internationally.

The only thing I’m sure of: I’m safer with BBM.




Erica Davis

Erica is a BlackBerry fanatic, supporter, and uses BlackBerry devices exclusively. She likes to connect the dots, fit the pieces together, and showcase the overshadowed... oh, and she likes cookies.