WhatsApp tries to placate users after facing backlash on privacy policy change

Written by Avanish Tiwary Published on 

India is WhatsApp’s biggest market by user number.

A week after messaging platform WhatsApp sent a pop-up message to millions of users globally informing its updated privacy policy, the messaging giant, following a strong backlash from users, said on Tuesday the update is not going to affect the privacy of user’s personal messages with their friends or family.

The clarification from WhatsApp came on the heels of growing user concern over how the messaging giant would use their data and share it with brands for targeted advertising on Facebook. Once a user agrees to WhatsApp’s new terms, their chat history with a business account, say an organic vegetable seller, will be accessible to Facebook which it will use to send targeted advertisements to their Facebook profile page.

The new privacy policy will be implemented from February 8 and those who wish to continue using the app will have to agree to the new terms.

“This update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data,” the Facebook-owned messaging app said.


Clarification from WhatsApp as posted on Twitter

Already, a slew of Indian companies have advised their employees to not use WhatsApp to share sensitive information with clients or other colleagues. Many of them have publicly suggested a switch to Signal or Telegram, alternate messaging platforms to WhatsApp as they don’t collect any user data.

Sameer Nigam, founder of digital payment app PhonePe, which competes with WhatsApp Pay, said over 1,000 PhonePe employees have shifted to Signal. Nigam said he has “recreated all his work and family groups seamlessly” on Signal. “…most of my work contacts (other entrepreneurs, partners, media, bankers etc) are already on Signal too. I think folks have been looking for an alternative for a while now. Ironically FB itself might have just given people a reason to finally switch…”

Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya in a tweet said, “Starting in Feb, WhatsApp will begin sharing all kinds of data with Facebook. They just killed their best feature – privacy. Please no longer text me on WhatsApp. Download @signalapp.”

According to local media Economic Times, Signal’s app was installed 2,200 times on India’s app stores last Wednesday, up 38% from 1,600 installs in the week ended December 30, according to mobile intelligence firm Sensor Tower.

WhatsApp had recently announced that it has launched a “cart” feature allowing businesses to upload their entire catalog on its platform. The recent change in privacy policy seems to be a move to catalyze that feature, as Facebook wants to capitalize on collecting and sharing user information across its products and services.


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