Following this, demand for rival applications such as Signal and Telegram surged on privacy concerns and WhatsApp earlier this month decided to delay the new policy launch to May from February.
In this regard, WhatsApp in its FAQ support page stated, “We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. The changes are related to optional business features on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”
WhatsApp personal chats and calls:
According to the FAQ page, WhatsApp says that neither Facebook nor the social messaging app can read your messages or hear your calls with your friends, family, and co-workers on the app. WhatsApp has no way to see these as these are all end to end encrypted conversations. “We will never weaken this security and we clearly label each chat so you know our commitment,” the company stated.
WhatsApp logs on messages and calls:
WhatsApp says that it does not keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling. While traditionally mobile carriers and operators store this information, WhatsApp claims that “keeping these records for two billion users would be both a privacy and security risk and we don’t do it.”
WhatsApp location sharing:
When you share your location with someone on WhatsApp, your location is protected by end-to-end encryption, which means no one can see your location except the people you share it with, states Facebook-owned app.
WhatsApp contact sharing with Facebook:
WhatsApp also clarified that contacts stored on WhatsApp are not automatically shared on Facebook. “When you give us permission, we access only the phone numbers from your address book to make messaging fast and reliable, and we don’t share your contacts lists with the other apps Facebook offers,” said WhatsApp.
Group messages: The groups on WhatsApp remain private, it says. “We use group membership to deliver messages and to protect our service from spam and abuse. We don’t share this data with Facebook for ads purposes,” it said.
What can be done to protect your chats better?
You can either set the ‘Disappearing Messages’ feature or download your data for extra privacy.
So, what information is being shared by WhatsApp with Facebook via this new policy update?
The data being shared between the two platforms is primarily metadata to offer integrations across the social media giant’s products. Metadata is not messages, call etc data, it is different. For instance, it collects mobile device information like the operating system (Android, iOS others), phone model, screen resolution, IP addresses, language, coarse location (which essentially means they can track the city you are in but not your actual location).
In a nutshell, for the end-user, the most likely effect via the new policy update will be more targeted ads across Facebook-owned platforms such as Messenger, Instagram, and Facebook.
What action is the Indian government taking?
WhatsApp has earlier said that they will provide transparency and new options available to engage with businesses so they can serve their customers and grow. They are working to address misinformation and remain available to answer any questions.
With inputs from agencies