WhatsApp to Delay Privacy Policy Update After Users Flee to Other Services

A privacy policy update that subtly points out data can be shared with Facebook prompted a user exodus, so WhatsApp is now giving them until May 15 to agree to the changes.

A privacy policy update that subtly points out data can be shared with Facebook prompted a user exodus, so WhatsApp is now giving them until May 15, 2021 to agree to the changes.

This is for WhatsApp users

Dilbert and Moroon
Copyright Scott Adams, Inc./Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS

WhatsApp is hitting the brakes on a privacy policy update that has prompted users to flee the Facebook-owned platform for rival messaging apps like Signal.


WhatsApp’s original plan required people to agree to the new privacy policy on February 8, 2021. If they did not, the app implied it would shut down their accounts. To make things more confusing, the update also said WhatsApp partnered with Facebook on new “integrations,” without specifically saying how the data sharing works.

But on Friday, WhatsApp said it was postponing the plan amid an apparent user exodus. “We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms. No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8. We are also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp,” the service said in a blog post.

The Problem

The heart of the problem is trust (or the lack of it). WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, which has a notorious tecord on digital privacy. The social network has repeatedly tried to clarify that the updated WhatsApp policy will not result in real changes for users when talking with friends or family. But many refuse to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt.

Users Fleeing

This became apparent last week when Telsa CEO Elon Musk urged his followers on Twitter to use competing messaging app Signal. Since then, Signal has seen a massive influx of new users, numbering in the tens of millions.

Company Response

On Friday, WhatsApp reiterated that it will continue to use end-to-end encryption, meaning no one—not even Facebook—will be able to read your messages. “We also can not see your shared location and we don’t share your contacts with Facebook,” the app added.

The company went on to say the policy update itself deals primarily with businesses using WhatsApp to send and store messages with consumers. “This update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook,” it added.

Doubt Remains

Nevertheless, the updated privacy policy is still a reminder that WhatsApp does share some user data with Facebook. A FAQ outlines how the data from businesses messaging with you can be used for ad targeting over Facebook.

At the same time, the updated privacy policy itself uses broad, but abstract language concerning the data sharing, making it unclear what Facebook can collect from your WhatsApp usage and why.

We will have to wait and see if WhatsApp can clear up the confusion and win back users. In the meantime, the company is indicating it will not begin asking users to opt into the privacy policy until May 15. “We are going to do more over the coming weeks to make sure everyone knows how WhatsApp secures your messages,” added Will Cathcart, the head of WhatsApp.

This blog post is courtesy of PCMag.com updated January 15, 2021.

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