Last week, WhatsApp users complained when it was revealed that the world’s most popular messaging app would start sharing user data with Facebook.
WhatsApp, which was purchased by Facebook for $19 billion in 2014, announced that user data would be used to deliver more customized Facebook ads to your news feed. In more straightforward terms, WhatsApp is taking everything it knows about you and selling that information to advertisers.
Now, there’s been some miscommunication over what this privacy sharing entails. Some people have written tutorials on how to opt-out of this sharing, for example. Many people believe that the data is only being shared with Facebook. However, we know now that this is not entirely true.
You’re Agreeing to Share your Information with More than Just Facebook
What Type of Data is WhatsApp Using?
-Your Account Information: You only require a phone number to sign up for WhatsApp. Other information you may have provided includes a profile picture, status message, and profile name.
-Your Connections: WhatsApp has always organized your favorite contacts into a Favorite list. It appears this information will be used by advertisers along with any groups or broadcast lists you join: “such groups and lists get associated with your account information.”
-Usage and Log Information: WhatsApp collects service-related, diagnostic, and performance information, which includes how you interact with other users through WhatsApp, how you use the app, log files, diagnostic crash reports, website, and performance logs and reports.
-Status Information: WhatsApp collects your online and status message changes, including when you last used WhatsApp and when you last updated your status.
-Third Party Providers: This is another creepy one. WhatsApp explains that they work “with third-party providers” and that those providers “may provide us information about you” in certain situations.
How to Opt Out
You can’t fully opt out of WhatsApp’s new sharing policy with Facebook. However, you can turn off some parts of tracking from the WhatsApp settings menu.
Nevertheless, this is misleading: there’s no way to opt out of sharing all data with Facebook and WhatsApp. Here’s what a disclaimer on the WhatsApp FAQs page says:
“The Facebook family of companies will still receive and use this information for other purposes such as improving infrastructure and delivery systems, understanding how our services or theirs are used, securing systems, and fighting spam, abuse, or infringement activities”
So no, there’s no way to completely prevent WhatsApp from giving some data to Facebook.
What Does This Mean for You?
A lot of privacy advocates are freaking out about these changes – and for good reason.
However, it’s not quite as scary as you may think. The most important thing to remember is that your WhatsApp messages are still encrypted from end-to-end. That means even if someone intercepted your data, they wouldn’t be able to read your messages or view whatever photos you’re sending.
Nevertheless, everything on WhatsApp outside of your messages is now fair game to be shared with Facebook – from your contacts to the last time you were online.
Thanks to our friends at TheAntiMedia.org for uncovering a lot of the information used in this article.
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