This is a significant change in the policy of WhatsApp which had earlier promised to protect the privacy of its 1 billion users across the globe. WhatsApp is giving users a limited time to opt out of sharing their information with Facebook.
How will this work?
When people sign up on WhatsApp, they share their phone numbers so that WhatsApp can identify the user. The messaging service designates a unique number to that device on which it is installed. If the user has Facebook app installed on the same device then Facebook can access the device information by syncing with Whatsapp.
Facebook will be able to suggest phone contacts as friends. It won’t post phone numbers online or give them out to anyone. Agreeing to the policy means users who have saved your phone number in their phone may start seeing your profile in “friend suggestions” since Facebook will now be able to link your phone number with your account.
WhatsApp, however, won’t be able to read the contents of the messages — text or images — since these are end-to-end encrypted.
The update will give a new impetus to more targeted advertising for business. Suppose you sign up to your local parlour’s mailing list using the same mobile number that you use for WhatsApp, and if they decide to post an advertise on Facebook, you may see their ads on Facebook.
WhatsApp’s coordination with Facebook will help the messaging app to track the basic metrics about how often people use WhatsApp and strengthen the system of fighting spam on it.
How can you opt out?
In brief: While launching WhatsApp, you’ll see an updated Terms of Service. At the bottom of the screen, there’s a checkbox. Uncheck the box, then tap Agree, and your data will not be shared.
If you already blindly availed the service without going through it, don’t worry, you can still opt out:
Launch WhatsApp and tap Settings.
Uncheck the box marked “Share my account info.”
In detail: If you are an existing user, you can choose not to share your account information with Facebook.
There are two ways to do this:
You will see a control at the bottom of the screen. If you do not want your account information shared with Facebook you can uncheck the box or toggle the control.
The Facebook family of companies will still receive and use this information for other purposes such as improving infrastructure and delivery systems.
The new policy might draw flak over privacy concerns. WhatsApp had promised earlier that it will not use user information for advertising. Since its acquisition by Facebook, there were speculations that it will be a shift to a money-making policy.
WhatsApp is looking forward to strengthen its business and customer support with this change. Since it had dropped the annual subscription fee earlier, it is trying to explore new revenue opportunities.