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WhatsApp: Everything You Need to Know About the Controversial Privacy Policy Update

WhatsApp is set to block some features if you won’t agree to its privacy policy update after May 15.

WhatsApp: Everything You Need to Know About the Controversial Privacy Policy Update

Photo Credit: Reuters

WhatsApp originally planned to roll out its updated privacy policy by February 8

  • WhatsApp delayed the rollout of its updated privacy policy until May 15
  • The app claimed that the change is meant for business accounts
  • WhatsApp revealed what will happen if you don’t agree to its update

WhatsApp is updating its privacy policy, and that change has landed the world's leading instant messaging app in controversy. The update – earlier planned for February 8 and was later delayed to May 15 – has already brought enough criticism for WhatsApp as it is changing the way it shares user data through its platform. Although the Facebook-owned company has claimed to have no effect around the privacy of individual chats, it is indeed opening avenues for businesses to get user details to offer personalised experiences.

There has been a lot of confusion — and some misinformation — around how WhatsApp is implementing its updated privacy policy, when it will come, what all data it will share, and what happens if you don't agree to the new policy. Here, we are covering all these topics to provide you with some clarity.

When will WhatsApp implement its updated privacy policy?

Originally, WhatsApp was planning to make its privacy policy applicable across all its accounts by February 8. It, however, faced a strong public outrage that even helped competitors including Signal and Telegram. The company, owned by Facebook, tried to convince people and give them some clarity through a few public announcements that it decided to delay the update in January. That didn't help, though. WhatsApp eventually delayed the implementation of its new privacy policy until May 15.

What all data is shared if you agree to the updated privacy policy?

WhatsApp has made it clear since the announcement of its updated privacy policy that the update is mainly meant for businesses using its messaging platform. This means that once the updated privacy policy is accepted, the app will be able to share user details such as their phone numbers and transaction data. But nonetheless, WhatsApp stated that the change would not impact “how people communicate with friends or family” on the platform. The company also specified in a blog post that it would continue to provide end-to-end encryption for private messages, and it didn't keep logs of its users' messaging and calling.

The updated privacy policy also talks about WhatsApp's data sharing with parent company Facebook and its subsidiaries. That was one of the reasons behind the criticism. WhatsApp, however, clarified that the update “does not expand” its ability “to share data with Facebook.” The company also said that it couldn't see the shared location of its users and didn't share their contacts with the parent company. This doesn't mean that WhatsApp doesn't share any data with Facebook, though. It does already share a lot of information about its users with the social media giant.

“The information we share with the other Facebook Companies includes your account registration information (such as your phone number), transaction data (for example, if you use Facebook Pay or Shops in WhatsApp), service-related information, information on how you interact with businesses when using our Services, mobile device information, your IP address, and may include other information identified in the Privacy Policy section entitled ‘Information We Collect' or obtained upon notice to you or based on your consent,” the messaging app wrote in an FAQ page — providing clarity on its data sharing with Facebook and its subsidiary companies.

What will happen if you don't agree to the updated WhatsApp privacy policy?

WhatsApp initially didn't provide any details on what will happen if someone doesn't agree to its updated privacy policy. However, in an FAQ page, the messaging app said that you wouldn't have full functionality of WhatsApp until you accept.

“For a short time, you'll be able to receive calls and notifications, but won't be able to read or send messages from the app,” the company wrote on the page. TechCrunch reports that the mentioning of “short time” by WhatsApp means a few weeks.

WhatsApp added that users will have the chance to accept the updates after May 15, and its policy related to inactive users will apply in that case. The policy for inactive users mentions that accounts are “generally deleted after 120 days of inactivity.”

Does WhatsApp's new privacy policy spell the end for your privacy? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.


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Jagmeet Singh writes about consumer technology for Gadgets 360, out of New Delhi. Jagmeet is a senior reporter for Gadgets 360, and has frequently written about apps, computer security, Internet services, and telecom developments. Jagmeet is available on Twitter at @JagmeetS13 or Email at jagmeets@ndtv.com. Please send in your leads and tips. More
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