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WhatsApp now requires you to share data with Facebook — here's what you need to know

WhatsApp privacy policy Facebook
WhatsApp privacy policy Facebook (Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Windows Central)

Facebook acquired WhatsApp back in February 2014 for a staggering $19 billion. At that time, the service had 500 million users; it now boasts over 2 billion users today.

Facebook tried a lot of methods to monetize WhatsApp over the years, introducing business accounts to allow brands to chat with customers and even turning the platform into an e-commerce destination. That said, the app was left as its own entity, and Facebook didn't meddle too much into the core service itself.

That's changing now. WhatsApp has updated its privacy policy, and the new terms requires users to share data with Facebook as well as its associated companies, including Facebook Payments, Onavo (a web analytics service and controversial VPN), and CrowdTangle (a social analytics tool). The data that will be shared with Facebook and its companies as part of the new terms includes the following:

  • Profile name
  • Profile picture
  • IP address
  • Your phone number and contacts list
  • App logs
  • Status messages

From WhatsApp:

As part of the Facebook Companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information (see here) with, the other Facebook Companies.We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings, including the Facebook Company Products.

This is the exact move that WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum said the service wouldn't make following news of the Facebook acquisition:

Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible: You don't have to give us your name and we don't ask for your email address. We don't know your birthday. We don't know your home address.We don't know where you work. We don't know your likes, what you search for on the internet or collect your GPS location. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that.

But that stance changed in 2016, when WhatsApp started sharing data with Facebook. Users could opt out of doing so at the time, but that is no longer an option. If you're a WhatsApp user and don't agree to the new terms, you won't be able to use the app after February 8. For what it's worth, Koum left Facebook in 2018 following disagreements around data gathering and privacy.

You won't be able to use WhatsApp after February 8 if you don't agree to share data with Facebook.

So why is WhatsApp changing its policy now? The answer is simple: ads. Facebook is intent on turning WhatsApp into an e-commerce service, and it is running trials in India with Jio for the same.

The new privacy policy allows Facebook and its partners to tailor ads based on your interactions with businesses on the platform. The fact that there's no way to opt out of the data sharing is unfortunate, and it means you'll have to look for an alternative service. WhatsApp gained momentum because of its end-to-end encryption and exhaustive feature-set, and it is sad to see the service go down this route.

I use WhatsApp every single day to talk to friends and family, interact with PR folks, get updates from my bank, new show alerts from Netflix, and so much more. WhatsApp is so intertwined into the fabric of the internet in countries like India that it's not possible to dissociate from the service. Facebook knows this very well, and that may have been one of the main motivators behind the policy shift.

If you're in a position to switch away from WhatsApp, now is the time to do so. Signal (opens in new tab) is a great alternative, and it uses the same encryption protocol as WhatsApp. There's also Telegram (opens in new tab) if you need a more feature-rich platform. Check out the best WhatsApp alternatives if you're looking to jump ship from Facebook's data collection.

35 Comments
  • How about Teams chat using personal Microsoft account? Problem is it runs into same issues as Skype as needing another account. WhatsApp took off in part cos only needed a phone number which everyone already had.
  • I use signal now and that works well. I still have WhatsApp because most people I know have and use but hopefully everyone realises they don't need and install the other alternatives. Facebook can bugger off. One of the worst things ever created.
  • @soletakenn I wish it was as simple as people realising they had alternative means of communications... but most people are often rather dense in that regard.
  • Good idea. Or Skype.
  • "WhatsApp is so intertwined into the fabric of the internet in countries like India that it's not possible to dissociate from the service. " I hear this a lot too. We can't live without it. To which I say 1) doesn't his define monopoly power. We can even set aside how they got the power. The result is the have it. And monopoly is bad.
    2) as the author points out, you still can switch. I'd just add Skype and Teams, not only because they function very well, but because Microsoft does not have an advertising placement business model for these services. To the contrary, Microsoft sells to enterprise companies who can demand and get stability, security, and privacy (other the enterprise customer can and will take their business elsewhere, to Amazon, or Cisco, et al). Scrapping data is not in their DNA like it is at Facebook
  • https://faq.whatsapp.com/android/account-and-profile/how-to-delete-your-...
  • Send this article to your elected official, at least in the US. They are looking for reasons to break up FB so let's give em some
  • Use telegram, its million times better.
  • Maybe, but they still want a phone number to use it, that was one reason I would not use Whatsapp.
    I don't see why they just can use an account, like Skype and Discord do, without using for my phone number.
  • The only WhatsApp and Telegram appeal is that you "automatically" have all your contacts there because the account is the phone number...
  • Google and Facebook can basically put what they want in their T&Cs. We'd so locked in we just accept it and move on.
  • @bradavon Accept it and Move on?
    No, that's exactly what Google and Facebook want.
  • I don't just accept and move on. I choose to happily limit my use of these companies because their whole existence relies on knowing more about me than I do.
  • What about good old BBM? i hear it still does a decent job as a communication platform.
  • I tried it once about 5 years ago. For family members to set it up there were too many hoops to jump thru.
  • Official outlaw for Usa. (and others)
    But not understand.
  • If you think this is bad, the following is what Facebook Messenger wants from you: Purchase History
    Other Financial Info
    Precise Location
    Coarse Location
    Physical Address
    Email Address
    Name
    Phone Number
    Other User Contact Info
    Contacts
    Photos or Videos
    Gameplay Content
    Other User Content
    Search History
    Browsing History
    User ID
    Device ID
    Product Interaction
    Advertising Data
    Other Usage Data
    Crash Data
    Performance Data
    Other Diagnostic Data
    Other Data Types
    Health
    Fitness
    Payment Info
    Photos or Videos
    Audio Data
    Gameplay Content
    Customer Support
    Other User Content
    Sensitive Info
  • At this rate, sooner or later Facebook will want a multiple "aspects" of DNA from you.... 😶...
  • This is why I refuse to use Facebook messenger. I won't agree to an invasion of my privacy.
  • Z.z people around me kept saying I was paranoid when I brought this up why I was still using my Lumia 950 XL. Every app I use works just fine even telegram, email works soo much better than Android and ios. Hell, I can't even sign in to my college account using the android app without jumping through hoops. Whereas On WM10 it's seamless. I guess since I've now made the switch to Sailfish X and Android apps (without any Google services) I'll just switch over to signal. This won't fly in the EU... but oops the UK left the EU... damned shortsighted brexiters and their idiocy.
  • Yet Whatsapp and Facebook messenger aren't the only messaging apps out there so leaving the EU makes no difference, but keep bashing brexiteers if that's what makes you feel like a big man.
  • Actually it does make a fair amount of difference. 1)Companies can simply opt people in to their TOS and harvest as much data as they can. 2)Companies are no longer obligated to making opting out easier. As they don't have to follow GDPR in the UK since it has not been ratified into UK law. Which also means companies are no longer obligated to follow strict data control + access policies nor implement such policies. One such policy that is a mandatory requirement under GDPR is deletion of customer data of personal devices used under BYOD. An employee had to remove such data during their final meeting at work - which in most cases would mean reformatting their phone. As result, if it was lost or stolen, your data wouldn't be out in the open. This is especially important due to the pandemic as companies don't have enough laptops / phones to give out to all their employees. So therefore employees will be using their personal devices. That's ontop of all the issues with Brexit, such as food shortages, medicine shortages, ppe shortages, equipment shortages - that allow vaccines to be administered - such as syringes, needles etc. Then there's the issue of information sharing such as criminal databases. The same level of access will take ages to re-establish. On the flipside, the reduced levels of collaboration and exchange programmes such as Erasmus. As well as reduced funding for apprenticeships - many of which were funded by the European Social Fund. Plus there is the impact of on Just in time manufacturing i.e. Car Plants in the UK. Many of the parts are brought in via freight / lorries via the EU. The list of negative impacts is extremely large, they far outweigh the benefits. Because there are hardly any without significant investment from the Government and given what's happening with the Pandemic... chances of that happening is zilch. I suggest you do some research 😅.
  • I agree. Brexiteers have shot themselves (and their countryman) in the foot. Sadly we live in times where populism is almost everywhere and it is hard for people to see the actual events / consequences through all the noise that is created.
  • I would not suggest Telegram as an alternative if this bothers you, it is not well known for its good encryption and arguably privacy as an extend of that (at least Whatsapp cannot look at the content of your messages, while Telegram can unless you specifically create private chats which are not possible for group chats iirc). Instead something like Signal makes more sends as an alternative, or to partially replace Whatsapp even.
  • Agreed but I use Telegram X which is, I believe, a more secure version of Telegram
  • I do not know Telegram X but I would be very wary since app variants usually only matter for the interface features, not the actual API / server side code that is behind it. Of course if Telegram X offers some form of additional encryption where it is impossible for the Telegram company/server (as well as the app maker itself) to know what the key is than it could be safe (a big 'if'). At the end there is still the issue of meta information though, while not as privacy sensitive as the content can still say a lot about someone. Granted this is also a big issue for WhatsApp.
  • Every chat on Telegram has been encrypted since the launch. Cloud Chats offer real-time secure and distributed cloud storage [6]. WhatsApp, on the other hand, had zero encryption for a few years and then adopted an encryption protocol funded by the US Government [7]. Even if we assume that the WhatsApp encryption is solid, it’s invalidated via multiple backdoors and reliance on backups [8]. And Telegram can not read your personal chats. This is just a myth.
  • No sorry but you're partly wrong here. WhatsApp has end-to-end chat encryption for a few years now (time before that is not relevant anymore). The very nature of end-to-end is to prevent that the owner/server company can decrypt them if implemented correctly (which according to several trusted encryptors, Whatsapp has). While Telegram only has this for non-group chats and specifically created as Private Chats (which probably no user thinks of besides some tech savy people). Normal and group chats are encrypted BUT server side and not end-to-end, which means Telegram company has the key to decrypt those message easily if they would want that.
    Of course mostly these companies are more interested in meta information which is generally more valuable for ads and marketing (do note that meta info can still tell a lot of how someone lives its life, more than people usually realize).
  • Personally, I just use Discord. But it's not exactly something the majority of the world is going to pick up.
  • Facebook/Google/Twitter can go (*++# themself.
  • Will your Whatsapp data still be share with Facebook even if you do not have a Facebook account? Or have different phone numbers or email addresses registered on both services?
  • I see that the "best whatsapp alternatives" linked in this article claims Telegram has no video calling.
    That already changed several months ago. You can make video calls on Telegram.
  • "get updates from my bank, new show alerts from Netflix" How do you set these up? Thanks
  • And that happens when we give this power to a company. In the end we will continue using because we have no alternative because most of our contacts use WhatsApp. For my part I have always looked for alternatives and currently I have chosen the telegram as the main one of all. However I will continue using WhatsApp for Profesional reasons and for comunicate with my friends and family.
  • Reason #157 why I never use any of this stuff.