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

When you read the new WhatsApp privacy policy, you’ll see frequent reminders that all of your messages are encrypted from end-to-end. In addition, however, the privacy policy specifically mentions that you’re sharing your WhatsApp data with more than just Facebook – you’re sharing it with “other companies in the Facebook family”, including Atlas, Instagram, Onavo, Parse, Moves, Oculus, LiveRail (also known as Facebook Audience Network), and Masquerade.

facebook family

What Type of Data is WhatsApp Using?

So which part of your personal data is at risk? Essentially, you’re agreeing to share all of the information you’ve entered through your WhatsApp account, including information you provided and information provided about you by other users. Here’s what’s specifically mentioned in the WhatsApp privacy policy:

-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.

last seen whatsapp

-Status Information: WhatsApp collects your online and status message changes, including when you last used WhatsApp and when you last updated your status.

-Information Others Provide About You: This is the creepiest one by far. WhatsApp admits that it may have information about you even if you’ve never used WhatsApp or have stopped using WhatsApp. Basically, this part of the privacy policy states that others WhatsApp users may enter your phone number from their address book, send you a message, or send messages to group you belong to – so even if WhatsApp is currently uninstalled, WhatsApp and Facebook may still know a little more about you.

-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.

whatsapp privacy

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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