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Whatsapp will now share user data with Facebook, but you can still opt-out

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Ever since its acquisition by Facebook in 2014, users and analysts both have worried what might ultimately become, of the widely wildly popular IM service WhatsApp. The company has since then operated independently, rolling out multiple features, including end-to-end encryption and voice calling over the past couple of years.

But, it is today introducing numerous updates to its privacy policy and thus, loosening some control over the data it collects from its users, and ultimately handling that lost control to its lenient-so-far parent, Facebook. In the update, Whatsapp mentions it will now be sharing some amount of your account information with Facebook and its family of apps.

I assume the only question that’s currently swirling about your head is — What information is Whatsapp sharing with Facebook? I need to know, right now!!

Well, this might be a matter of concern for you, but the company is adamant about maintaining its stance on user privacy. In the official release, it says, ‘Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA.’ and it will continue to follow the same. Whatsapp mentions that the upside of coordinating more with Facebook is that it’ll be able to more accurately count unique user, track basic usage metrics as well as fight spam.

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And to do that, it will need to share the phone number you verified when you registered with WhatsApp, as well as the last time you used the service. It promises not to post, share or sell your number to advertisers, but offer access to it only to Facebook and its family of apps. It reiterates itself to add that WhatsApp, Facebook or anyone won’t ever be able to read your messages, as they are E2E encrypted by default.

Nothing you share on WhatsApp, including your messages, photos, and account information, will be shared onto Facebook or any of the Facebook family of apps for others to see.

WhatsApp is of the belief that by sharing some account information with Facebook, it will be able to improve users experience and provide a more personal and coordinated experience across its family of apps. The messaging service thinks,

by connecting your phone number with Facebook’s systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them.

In addition to this, WhatsApp is still sticking to its guns and not introducing any third-party banner ads on its platform for good. Instead, as speculated before, it is planning to finally “explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you too”. The company had even dropped its $1 annual subscription fee and decided to monetize the platform through connecting users to businesses.

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And it has, thus, updated its privacy policies and terms to test business-oriented features such as sending appointment information, delivery and shipping notifications, product and service updates, and obviously marketing. In a bold step towards phasing out traditional messaging, WhatsApp cites the example of receiving updates about a potentially fraudulent transaction from your bank account, notifications about the latest drone that you’ve had your eyes set on or that you’re holiday flight to Macau is delayed.

Though some of the changes might sound meaningful and necessary, but users are still expected to feel a little annoyed about the intrusion and sharing of data with Facebook. They need not worry though because they will have the option to manage these communications or completely opt out of it. Facebook, and WhatsApp are clear about maintaining boundaries and giving you control over your data.

Detailed in a F.A.Q support page, WhatsApp says that there are two ways to opt-out from sharing your account information with Facebook. Firstly, while accepting the terms and conditions in the update app, you will need to click on ‘Read’ the terms and privacy policy option instead of hastily clicking accept. Then scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see a check box — uncheck this to deny permission.

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Secondly, if you’ve updated the application and accepted the new terms and conditions without turning a blind eye to the situation, then you’ll have 30 days to toggle the setting under the ‘Account’ section. And if you’re a non-Facebooker(somehow!?), then you can enjoy using the messaging service without having to worry about anything. You still don’t need to create a Facebook account, you can continue to live in the moment.


A hands-on guy fascinated by new apps, technologies and enterprise products.

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