WhatsApp is to hand your phone number to Facebook

Roses are red, violets are blue, Facebook knows all that you think, say and do

WhatsApp has updated its terms and privacy policy for the first time in four years as part of parent company Facebook’s plans to generate cash through app users' data.

While WhatsApp has been a separate service from Facebook since its acquisition for $16bn two years ago, the companies are now going to enjoy a cosier relationship.

If you’re a WhatsApp user you can expect the app to soon export more of your information to Facebook as the megacorp seeks to bleed some revenue from businesses by allowing them to advertise to you, without using third-party banner advertisements and spam.

This will not affect the privacy of the content of users’ messages. As WhatsApp integrates the Signal messaging protocol, messages are protected with end-to-end encryption.

“We won’t post or share your WhatsApp number with others,” the business stated today, “including on Facebook, and we still won’t sell, share or give your phone number to advertisers.”

This suggests that WhatsApp might yet offer itself as a platform for business to contact you through, but the company itself has announced that “by coordinating more with Facebook, we'll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp.”

That sounds lovely, of course, until the statement continued: “And by connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you've never heard of.”

Users are not able to opt out of this data sharing, although you can choose not to allow to be shared for the purpose of improving their experience with advertisements and product experiences on Facebook.

WhatsApp is seeking to integrate features that regularly take place over SMS at the moment: "Whether it's hearing from your bank about a potentially fraudulent transaction, or getting notified by an airline about a delayed flight, many of us get this information elsewhere, including in text messages and phone calls. We want to test these features in the next several months, but need to update our terms and privacy policy to do so." ®


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