Monday, January 18, 2021

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WhatsApp tries to reassure users following Facebook data sharing backlash

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As reported by MacRumors, Whatsapp is trying to reassure users about their privacy after news broke that the app would now be sharing a large amount of data with Facebook, its parent company.

Last week it was revealed that WhatsApp’s new terms and conditions, which users were required to agree to in order to continue using the app, gave Facebook access to a lot more data. It even applied to users who had opted out of sharing data with Facebook beforehand.

WhatsApp has updated its privacy policy, and the new terms requires users to share data with Facebook as well as its associated companies, including Facebook Payments, Onavo (a web analytics service and controversial VPN), and CrowdTangle (a social analytics tool).

The move was meant with an outcry from WhatsApp users and competing messaging apps like iMessage, Signal, and Telegram have all seen significant boosts since then. In an effort to clarify the new policy, WhatsApp has taken to social media to assure users that their messages are still end-to-end encrypted and unable to be seen by either company.

It has also added an FAQ section that answers concerns in more detail.

The FAQ explains that WhatsApp and Facebook cannot see a user’s private messages or hear their calls. Logs of who users are messaging and calling are not retained and shared location, contact information, and group membership is kept private.

As MacRumors notes, however, the FAQ still does not tell the whole story of what is now happening with user data in the app.

However, it is noticeable that WhatsApp has mostly focused on what data is not shared with Facebook, rather than what is. The FAQ update does not acknowledge the fact, as stated under the updated privacy policy, that WhatsApp shares device and interaction information, IP address, and unspecified “other information” with Facebook.

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