WhatsApp recently rolled out a policy update through which users’ data will be accessible to its parent company Facebook.

WhatsApp application on a mobile phoneIMAGE CREDIT: PICXY.COM/CAPTURED_BY_PAVAN
Atom Data privacy Wednesday, January 13, 2021 - 11:45

Following a virtual exodus of users from WhatsApp to other messaging service applications in view of their policy update, the messaging service, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, has issued front page advertisements in most newspapers claiming “WhatsApp respects and protects your privacy.”

In a bid to allay fears of users who are concerned about data privacy, WhatsApp said, “WhatsApp cannot see your private messages or hear your calls, and neither can Facebook: every private message, photo, video, voice message, and document you send your friends, family and co-workers in one-on-one or group chats is protected by end-to-end encryption It stays between you.”

The company added that it does not share the data with its parent company, Facebook, which is a major concern for many users. “WhatsApp cannot see your shared location and neither can Facebook. WhatsApp groups remain private: we use group membership to deliver messages and to protect our service from spam and abuse. We don't share this data with Facebook for ads purposes. Again, these private chats are end-to-end encrypted so we can't see their content. WhatsApp does not share your contacts with Facebook or any other app.”  

WhatsApp said that the change in policy is only to facilitate interaction with businesses. “We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”

The update notification which users received on the app compels them to accept the new terms and conditions by February 8, failing which users may not be able to access their WhatsApp accounts.

As per the new policy, if given consent, the information WhatsApp collected from users will be automatically shared with Facebook. This information includes your user activity-- how often you use WhatsApp, features you use, your profile photo, your status and ‘about’ information. 

The information could also be used by Facebook and its other products to make suggestions for users, personalise features and content and show relevant offers and ads across Facebook products.

It will also collect device-level information like what device you use, your mobile network, IP address, etc.

The consent enables WhatsApp to collect and use precise location information from your device, when location is on, and info like area codes to estimate your location when GPS is off.

Read: Explained: WhatsApp’s new privacy policy and what you can do about it

Read: ‘Want people to own their own data’: Signal and WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton

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