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WhatsApp tries to contain the implications of the privacy policy update


WhatsApp has posted a new question-and-answer page on its website to determine its position on user privacy, in response to the widespread violent reaction to the upcoming privacy policy update.

The main problem relates to WhatsApp's data sharing procedures with Facebook, with many users concerned that the updated privacy policy, which comes into effect on February 8th, requires sharing sensitive account information with Facebook.

The update has nothing to do with consumer conversations or account data, and instead, the change is designed to illustrate how companies that use WhatsApp to serve customers store their conversation logs via Facebook servers.

The company feels that this is something to be disclosed in its privacy policy, which it is doing now after previewing the upcoming changes to business chats in October.

But the wave of misinformation across social media platforms, which relied on Facebook's poor record on privacy and its reputation for obfuscating changes to its various terms of service agreements, led to a backlash on WhatsApp and caused users to flee to competitors such as Telegram and Signal.

Elon Musk, Tesla's CEO, entered the fray, tweeting last week, advising his 42 million followers using the Signal app.

As the controversy mounted, Signal became one of the most downloaded apps over Android and iOS, and the app's verification system for registering new users has repeatedly collapsed under pressure.

On the other hand, the Telegram platform has seen more than 25 million new users register in just the last 72 hours.

WhatsApp executives, as well as Instagram's president Adam Mosseri, are trying to make things right now.

"We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way, and instead, this update includes changes related to messaging with whatsapp businesses, which is optional, and provides more transparency about how data is collected and used," the company wrote on its new FAQ page.

It also confirms in the FAQ that the latest does not read users' message logs or listen to their calls, including WhatsApp or Facebook, and that location data is not stored or contact information shared with Facebook.

Will Cathcart, President of WhatsApp, said: "We can't see your private conversations or calls because of end-to-end encryption, and we are committed to this technology and committed to defending it globally.

"It's important for us to be clear that this update describes business communications, doesn't change WhatsApp data sharing practices with Facebook, and doesn't affect how people communicate especially with friends or family wherever they are in the world.

Ironically, for the vast majority of those using the messaging system, the sharing of data that WhatsApp users are keen to avoid has occurred.

The company allowed users to opt out of sharing data with Facebook only briefly in 2016, two years after Facebook purchased the platform.

WhatsApp shared some account information, phone number and account name, with Facebook for targeted ads and other purposes, for new subscribers and those who did not withdraw from sharing data manually.

The language on data sharing with Facebook was changed in the next change in privacy policy, leading many to believe that the sharing of mandatory new data was a new and unavoidable change, even though it was happening all along.

WhatsApp's new privacy policy says: As part of the Facebook family, WhatsApp receives information from this group of companies and shares information with them, and 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 the services.

This whole controversy may be attributed to users who misread confusing media reports, jump straight to conclusions, and then engage in panic on social media platforms.

Facebook must deal with the fact that whatsapp's distrust is directly linked to years of deceptive Facebook privacy commitments and the terms of increasingly complex service agreements, which no average user can reasonably understand.