December 2, 2023

A new notification has been popping up on everyone’s WhatsApp telling them that it’s terms and policies are being updated. Users have until February 8 to accept these new terms, and WhatsApp has indicated that users may not be able to access their WhatsApp accounts if they do not accept the new terms and agreements

This new update has caused a lot of concern over the new privacy policy, especially with respect to data sharing with its parent company Facebook.

What is WhatsApp sharing with Facebook?

Facebook-owned WhatsApp’s updated policy says that it may share your information with its family of companies to facilitate, support and integrate their activities and improve our services.

WhatsApp automatically collects from you will be shared with Facebook. This includes your mobile phone number and basic information you give when you create a WhatsApp account.

It also collects and shares user activity, how often you use WhatsApp, features you use, your profile photo, your status and ‘about’ .

It also collects device-level information like what device you use, your mobile network, IP address, among others. It also collects and uses precise location information from your device, but with your permission.

“We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings, including the Facebook Company Products,” WhatsApp says.

Your information could also be used by Facebook and its other products to make suggestions for you, personalise features and content, help you complete purchases and transactions, and show relevant offers and ads across the Facebook Company Products

The Facebook products include Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Portal-branded devices, Oculus Products, Facebook Shops, Spark AR Studio, Audience Network, NPE Team apps and any other features, apps, technologies, software, products or services offered by Facebook Inc.

What about your messages?

WhatsApp has reiterated that all messages are end-to-end encrypted. This means that neither WhatsApp, not third parties will access or read your messages.

Nothing you share on WhatsApp, including your messages, photos, and account information, will be shared onto Facebook or any of our other family of apps for others to see, and nothing you post on those apps will be shared on WhatsApp for others to see,”

WhatsApp doesn’t store your messages once they’ve been delivered. Messages are stored on the user’s device and not on WhatsApp’s servers. Once messages are delivered, they are deleted from its servers.

In the course of delivering a message, WhatsApp’s servers store undelivered messages in encrypted form for up to 30 days and if a message is still undelivered after 30 days, WhatsApp claims to delete it.

“When a user forwards media within a message, we store that media temporarily in encrypted form on our servers to aid in more efficient delivery of additional forwards,” WhatsApp adds.

What about your transaction data?

WhatsApp has launched a payments feature in India, it says that if you use WhatsApp Pay, additional information, including payment account and transaction information is processed by the company. This is information required to complete the transaction such as payment method, shipping details and transaction amount.

“If you use our payments services available in your country or territory, our privacy practices are described in the applicable payments privacy policy,” it adds.

What about ads?

WhatsApp does not allow third-party ads on its services. “We have no intention to introduce them, but if we ever do, we will update this Privacy Policy,” it says.

WhatsApp can use information it has about you to communicate to you about its services and market its services and those of other Facebook companies.  

What about businesses and third-part services?

WhatsApp recently launched WhatsApp Business, which allows businesses to contact and communicate with customers through its app. This could include making purchases through the app, or businesses contacting you, sending you order confirmations, flight tickets, tickets to other events, etc.

While chats between you and a Business are end-to-end encrypted, WhatsApp says that once the message is received, it will be subject to the business’s own privacy practices.

“Some businesses will be able to choose WhatsApp’s parent company, Facebook, to securely store messages and respond to customers. While Facebook will not automatically use your messages to inform the ads that you see, businesses will be able to use chats they receive for their own marketing purposes, which may include advertising on Facebook. You can always contact that business to learn more about its privacy practices,” WhatsApp says.

What choice do you have?

To continue using WhatsApp, you need to accept the new terms and conditions. If you do not wish to, WhatsApp too, suggests deleting your account.

For users who have already accepted the new terms and conditions, but do not want WhatsApp to share data with Facebook, or other businesses, they will have an additional 30 days to opt out and delete their account.

What happens if you delete your account?

WhatsApp says that when you delete your WhatsApp account, your undelivered messages are deleted from its servers along with any of your other information it no longer needs to operate and provide its services.

However, users must ensure they not only uninstall WhatsApp, but must delete their account from WhatsApp. This can be done by going to settings > Account and selecting ‘Delete my account’.

“Please remember that when you delete your account, it does not affect the information other users have relating to you, such as their copy of the messages you sent them,” WhatsApp’s privacy policy adds.

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