In what's a major policy change for WhatsApp, the Middle East's favorite messaging app will start sharing user's data with their parent company, Facebook. When Facebook bought WhatsApp for the mind-blowing sum of $19 billion US dollars in 2014, Co-Founder Jan Koum promised to keep the platform independent, free of advertising, and private. He even penned a strongly worded blog post describing how "Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible."
However, all that changed last week with an update to the app's terms of service. Facebook can now use your WhatsApp account data to enhance what the company knows about you overall. With ad profiling products that span the web, this information could potentially follow you everywhere Facebook is available online. But, for a limited time, you have the chance to take back some of your privacy by following our guide below.
Facebook updated the WhatsApp terms of service to include the ability to share data with Facebook.
What's being shared?
According to Facebook, phone numbers will be shared with Facebook to offer 'better friend suggestions [and] more relevant ads'. They are also exploring following in the footsteps of Facebook Messenger and allowing businesses to use the platform to reach customers.
To be clear, your encrypted messages are still entirely private and not subject to prying by Facebook or WhatsApp.
Why does this matter?
While Facebook is the semi-public profile you share with friends, WhatsApp usually contains more private details. Now some those details will be shared with Facebook. While the sharing is starting with phone numbers, your phone book holds some of your most intimate connections. Facebook will now be able to see what businesses you frequent and non-Facebook friends you make. That information will be connected into Facebook's growing platform of ad targeting products that aren't just limited to Facebook, but also span advertisements across the web.
What can I do about it?
You can opt out of the new deal.
How do I opt out of WhatsApp's data sharing?
If you haven't accepted the new terms of service yet, you're in luck. You can opt out of the new terms by not selecting "accept" and instead navigating to the smaller "read more" option, and untick the box that says "Share my WhatsApp account information with Facebook".
If you're like 99% of people on the Internet, you've already clicked accept. But fear not, you still have 30 days to change your mind!
Simply go to your user settings and navigate to the account tab. Scroll down and you'll find a "share my account info" button that you can switch to revoke your permission. It's as simple as that!
If you're curious about more privacy issues, check out our piece on VPNs in the UAE for more info.