WhatsApp is under fire due to a change in the company’s Terms of Service, effective Feb. 8, which now states that WhatsApp will share user data with parent company Facebook.
Users are leaving the platform — one indication is a massive surge of new users into competing messaging service Signal — and now, WhatsApp is mitigating the damage.
“We want to address some rumors and be 100 percent clear we continue to protect your private messages with end-to-end encryption,” the company tweeted Tuesday.
In an infographic attached to the tweet, WhatsApp clarifies that it “cannot see your private messages or hear your calls and neither can Facebook.” Furthermore, WhatsApp says it “does not keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling,” it “cannot see your shared location and neither can Facebook,” and it “does not share your contacts with Facebook.”
Finally, WhatsApp says that groups on the platform will “remain private,” users can set their messages to disappear, and users can download their data.
The company goes into more details in a new section of its FAQ. There, the company vows to “never weaken” the security provided by end-to-end encryption. WhatsApp also claims the changes to its Terms of Service do not “affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way.” Instead, the new changes are all about how you interact with businesses on WhatsApp — businesses on Facebook will be given the option to set up WhatsApp chats with customers for things like answering questions or sending receipts, as well as the option to display their Shop goods for sale directly on WhatsApp. If you message a business listed on Facebook via WhatsApp after clicking one of these prompts, your data could be shared to personalise ads, the FAQs read.
All of the above is good to know. However, WhatsApp here doesn’t fully address the stuff that caused user concern in the first place. If you’re aren’t too excited about wading through WhatsApp’s massive Terms of Service document, the company’s FAQ explains it succinctly.
An earlier version of WhatsApp’s ToS gave users the ability to opt out of having their WhatsApp data shared with Facebook. The new ToS doesn’t mention this possibility. And while you may be fine with handing over Facebook more of your personal data, know that there are alternatives, such as Signal or Telegram, which share far less data with third parties.