WhatsApp Updates Privacy Policy, So It Can Share More Data With Facebook

Facebook, WhatsApp

WhatsApp users around the world are receiving a pop-up notice, suggesting that the messaging service has something new in mind.

Users have until February 8 to read and agree to its updated privacy policy. Failure to do so would lead to WhatsApp deleting the users' account.

The only way to continue using WhatsApp after that date, is to click on that 'Agree' button to proceed, to make Facebook happy.

The updated terms on the privacy policy update builds upon a similar change WhatsApp announced in July 2020, in which WhatsApp gave users the option to “not have your WhatsApp account information shared with Facebook.”

With this update, WhatsApp is removing this option, "forcing" users to accept the updated terms and the privacy policy if they wish to continue using the instant messenger.

If users agree to the changes, WhatsApp will start sharing data with other Facebook-owned companies.

“The information we share with the other Facebook Companies includes your account registration information (such as your phone number), transaction data, service-related information, information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using our Services, mobile device information, your IP address, and may include other information identified in the Privacy Policy section entitled ‘Information We Collect’ or obtained upon notice to you or based on your consent.”

The updated privacy policy further highlights how other Facebook companies can, and may use the information collected from WhatsApp. This includes:

  • Helping improve infrastructure and delivery systems.
  • Understanding how our Services or theirs are used.
  • Promoting safety, security and integrity across the Facebook Company Products, e.g., security systems and fighting spam, threads, abuse, or infringement activities.
  • Improving their services and your experiences using them, such as making suggestions for you (for example, of friends or group connections, or of interesting content), personalizing features and content, helping you complete purchases and transactions, and showing relevant offers and ads across the Facebook Company Products.
  • Providing integrations which enable you to connect your WhatsApp experiences with other Facebook Company Products. For example, allowing you to connect your Facebook Pay account to pay for things on WhatsApp or enabling you to chat with your friends on other Facebook Company Products, such as Portal, by connecting your WhatsApp account.

Some of the information WhatsApp is collecting and will be sharing to Facebook, includes location data, IP addresses, phone model, OS, battery level, signal strength, browser, mobile network, ISP, language, time zone, and even IMEI. There’s also the information about how users are messaging, calling, what groups they are attending, the Status, the profile photo, last time they're online, and so forth.

The key updates here affect how WhatsApp will process users' data, how businesses can use Facebook-hosted services to store and manage their WhatsApp chats, and how WhatsApp can exchange data with Facebook to offer deeper integrations across all of the latter’s products.

WhatsApp privacy policy update, Android, iOS
WhatsApp's privacy policy update notification on Android (left) and iOS (right)

The updated WhatsApp terms and privacy policy change falls in line with Facebook’s larger goal of providing a more cohesive experience to users across all its services.

WhatsApp is already collecting a lot of metadata related to users' account.

But since the company has added among others, a section called “Transaction and Payments Data” in a push for Facebook‘s various payment services to let users pay for different goods, Facebook needs get more user data from WhatsApp.

With the updated privacy policy, Facebook wants users' consent to gather more data, so it can push marketing materials about Facebook other companies, to users on WhatsApp. Facebook can also use the data it gathered from WhatsApp users, to help its content suggestions, people recommendations, ads, and other "improvements."

While the changes may help the company provide “better” services, it raises several privacy concerns that Facebook stance on "privacy".

How WhatsApp works with other Facebook companies
How WhatsApp works with other Facebook companies. (Credit: WhatsApp)

The social titan has long said that user privacy and advertisements can go together well.

This is something Apple rejected, which in turn forced Facebook to prepare its partners for the iOS 14 change, saying that iOS 14 will affect its ad performance.

Fortunately for users in the EU, these policy changes don’t apply to them as WhatsApp has to abide by the strict requirements of GDPR.

But for other billions of users, they have to agree or start looking for an alternative messaging app because the policy will take place on February 8, 2021.

Previously, Facebook has already unified Instagram and Messenger for cross-platform communication.

Update: Facebook delayed the update to May 5.

Further reading: Facebook's Criticizing Apple's Pro-Privacy Tracking Change, EFF: 'Laughable'