WhatsApp Privacy Policy Changes to Enforce Data Sharing With Facebook

Written by Bill Toulas
Last updated September 25, 2021

The time to decide whether or not you will continue using WhatsApp or look elsewhere is approaching, as the popular IM platform is soon to introduce some “key updates” onto its privacy policy. Starting from February 8, 2021, users of WhatsApp will have to agree to some new integrations that involve Facebook and the disclosing of user data with the parent company.

To make it even worse, users who don’t agree to the revised terms will have their WhatsApp accounts terminated. The Hacker News decided to dive deeper into the changes and found several problematic additions, with the expansion of the “Information You Provide” section being the first. More specifically, there’s a mention of payment account and transaction information collected during purchases made through WhatsApp and who they share this data with.

Previously, it was “Affiliated Companies,” but now it’s “Other Facebook Companies.” That would include the Facebook app, Messenger, Instagram, Boomerang, Threads, Portal-branded devices, Oculus VR, Facebook Shops, Spark AR Studio, Audience Network, and NPE Team apps.

But things don’t stop at the payment information, as data that help the above apps make targeted suggestions and enable personalization features will also be shared across all Facebook products. And thirdly, there’s a mention of the automatically collected data like performance, usage and log information, diagnostics, location information, device and connection information, service status, etc.

As the policy reads, even if the user has disabled located-related features on the app, the IP address is used in conjunction with other data to estimate their location, even if general. The only thing that’s left for WhatsApp users to cherish is the app’s end-to-end encryption system, which is precisely what secures their communications against all third-parties.

However, this is not strong when on its own, and WhatsApp is being very aggressive with what data it collects and how it handles it. At this point, WhatsApp is maybe the least privacy-respecting E2EE IM app out there, so while it still supports secure communications, it’s not a good choice for those who would prefer to keep their anonymity and activities away from prying eyes.

If you’re looking for alternatives to WhatsApp, we are happy to inform you that there are plenty. Signal would be our first and greatest choice. Keybase is also an amazingly good solution. The recently open-sourced Threema is another solid E2EE option. And finally, Telegram, although troubled by reputation issues, remains a favorite and trustworthy app.

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