Facebook points out WhatsApp can’t read your messages, misses the point entirely

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WhatsApp, the largest messaging app on the planet, is having an unpleasant time at present. Competitors, like Telegram, are catching a lot of the exodus from the Facebook-owned service, in the wake of a terms and conditions update that was less a notification and more an ultimatum.

Attempting to limit some of the damage, Facebook has shared an FAQ concerning its privacy policy update. It says that, based on “…some of the rumors going around, we want to answer some of the common questions we have received.” Unfortunately, the company doesn’t really address anything that actually sparked outrage last week.

What’s up with WhatsApp

WhatsApp FAQ

Image: Facebook/WhatsApp

Facebook claims that the service doesn’t have access to all sorts of things — like your messages sent to other parties, location data (unless you’ve agreed to share it), call logs and contact data. But… nobody was really concerned about that in the first place. What they are concerned about is being opted in to Facebook’s far-reaching data collection policies, with no option to say ‘no’.

Facebook allowed WhatsApp users to opt out briefly in 2016 — this new change would replace the older policy, with no option to decline. And as Facebook itself said, you choices are to accept the new terms by 8 February, or delete your account. Turns out a bunch of folks decided to delete. Nobody likes an ultimatum.

Apple has been turning up the heat on Facebook’s services — and everyone else at the same time — by requiring that each app on Apple’s App Store features detailed privacy explanations while also asking users explicitly opt-in to the data collection that takes place. Facebook, the most data-hungry company on the planet, is… not pleased. And, according to Apple’s App Store, this is the data Facebook’s WhatsApp has access to when you’re using it:

Purchases
Financial Info
Location
Contact Info
Contacts
User Content
Identifiers
Usage Data
Diagnostics

And how that data is used is something of a mystery, unless you work inside Facebook. We know they use it to make money from advertisers, and they’re always hungry for more of it.

Private parts

Part of WhatsApp’s privacy update governs how users will interact with businesses on the service. Businesses may decide to use Facebook’s hosting services, which means that your interactions with that business will be shared with Facebook and its family of apps and services. That’ll include financial data, which Facebook definitely has its eye on next. Shopping activity will also be used to personalise your experience with the company’s Shops feature, an optional add-on that’ll likely become more commonplace — as will the data stream headed in Facebook’s direction.

The data you share with businesses on WhatsApp (and Instagram and other FB-owned companies) will almost certainly wind up in the hands of Facebook, Instagram, Oculus and any other services the parent company decides needs access to it. What that data consists of and how it will be used is only somewhat addressed in WhatsApp’s FAQ. Mostly the company say that it will keep its users informed, essentially asking them to trust the service.

But if it was a matter of trust, then WhatsApp wouldn’t have launched its privacy policy change on a very convenient day, news-wise, and not given its users an opportunity to back away from the update. It’s always been clear that Facebook wants your data. They’ve just stopped pretending you’ve got a choice about it.

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  1. Pingback: WhatsApp delays the rollout of its new privacy policy and business options to May 2021 » Stuff

  2. Pingback: WhatsApp may need to rethink its terms of service » Stuff

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