WhatsApp updates Terms of Service, will share info with parent company Facebook

Popular messaging app Whatsapp announced today that it is updating its terms and privacy policy to reflect recent changes to the service as well as to prepare for the future. Indeed, the new documents take into account the fact that the company is now a Facebook property, and that it also rolled out new features (voice calls, end-to-end encryption) and prepares to welcome businesses soon:

As we announced earlier this year, we want to explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you too, while still giving you an experience without third-party banner ads and spam. Whether it's hearing from your bank about a potentially fraudulent transaction, or getting notified by an airline about a delayed flight, many of us get this information elsewhere, including in text messages and phone calls. We want to test these features in the next several months, but need to update our terms and privacy policy to do so.

And so, just like Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp will soon turn into a platform that is obviously a common trend among messaging apps these days. But more important, Whatsapp will soon begin to share some information with its parent company Facebook, including the phone number you use with your Whatsapp account.

According to the blog post, this all about making your experience better on both platforms:

By coordinating more with Facebook, we'll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp. And by connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you've never heard of.

Whatsapp claimed 1 billion monthly active users in February 2016.
Whatsapp claimed 1 billion monthly active users in February 2016.

It's not completely clear how Whatsapp and Facebook will make the link between your different identities on both services. Of course, if you use Whatsapp but don't have a Facebook account, then you don't have anything to worry about and you'll be free to continue to use the service as usual. However, it's quite possible that many users of both services won't like Facebook to get their phone number from their Whatsapp account: do you really want more relevant friend suggestions and better-targeted ads on Facebook?

Still, Whatsapp promises that it has no hidden agenda. "We won’t post or share your WhatsApp number with others, including on Facebook, and we still won't sell, share, or give your phone number to advertisers," explains the blog post.

If you already use both services then you'll be happy to learn that you can opt out from sharing your Whatsapp phone number with Facebook. According to this FAQ, there are two ways to do set things up:

  • Before agreeing to the new Whatsapp terms of service, tap "Read", go the bottom of the page and un-check "Share my Whatsapp information with Facebook." (See, that's why you should always read this legal stuff).
  • If you already agreed to the updated terms of service, you will have 30 days to stop sharing your phone number with Facebook by going into "Settings" > "Account" > "Share my account info" in the app.

Whatsapp is still a popular messaging app on Windows Phone, and we'll see if these changes generate some backlash among the community of users. So far, these changes seem to make some business sense for the Palo Alto giant, and Whatsapp users who carefully check their settings have nothing to worry about for now. But it's now even clearer that Whatsapp is a Facebook company, which provides even more differentiation opportunities for independent messaging apps such as Telegram or Kik. Let us know in the comments if you'll keep using Whatsapp after these changes.

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