WhatsApp on Tuesday once again clarified that its new policy does not affect the privacy of users’ messages with their friends and family after the updated terms sparked off concerns. Questions have been raised about how the company was forcing users to agree to sharing information with Facebook if they want to keep using the service.
The Facebook-owned messaging app said it would “continue to protect your private messages with end-to-end encryption”. WhatsApp said it could not see your private messages or hear your calls. It also emphasised that its parent company Facebook could also not read messages or calls of its users.
The messaging app clarified that it does not keep logs of messages and calls or share users’ contacts with Facebook. It added that neither the company nor Facebook can see the users’ shared locations.
It also pointed out that for “additional privacy”, users can set messages to disappear. “You can download and see what information we have on your account right from within the app,” the cross-messaging platform said.
The company said that the updated policy makes it “easier and better” if the users choose to message businesses on Facebook. “Messaging with businesses is different than messaging with your family or friends,” WhatsApp said. “Some large businesses need to use hosting services to manage their communication. Which is why we’re giving businesses the option to use secure hosting services from Facebook to manage WhatsApp chats with their customers, answer questions, and send helpful information like purchase receipts.”
It said that these businesses may use the information the users share with them for marketing purposes, including advertising on Facebook. “To make sure you’re informed, we clearly label conversations with businesses that are choosing to use hosting services from Facebook.” the company said.
The messaging platform also said that the users’ shopping activity can be used – if they interact with Facebook Shops – for tailoring personal experience during shopping on the social media platform. “Features like this are optional and when you use them we will tell you in the app how your data is being shared with Facebook,” it said.
WhatsApp added that users will have the option to message business owners from the app if they see an advertisement on Facebook. It added that Facebook might use the way the users interact with these ads to personalise the advertisement content on the social media platform.
This is the second time the Facebook-owned platform has issued a clarification after it faced criticism over the updated policy. On January 9, WhatsApp had said that its latest update describes business communication and does not change its data-sharing practices with Facebook.
It had stated that users will have to agree to the new terms and policy by February 8, 2021, in order to continue using the messaging service. This had led to criticism over WhatsApp’s alleged information sharing with Facebook.
“It’s important for us to be clear this update describes business communication and does not change WhatsApp’s data sharing practices with Facebook,” Will Cathcart, the head of WhatsApp, had said in a series of tweets. “It does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family wherever they are in the world.”
Following the policy decision, WhatsApp started facing strong competition from rival platforms. Both Signal and Telegram, rival messaging platforms, were witnessing increased demand. Downloads of WhatsApp had also fallen by 11% in the first seven days of 2021 as compared with last week, data analytics firm Sensor Tower had said, adding that it still amounted to about 10.5 million downloads globally.