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WhatsApp: Everything you need to know about the new privacy policy

WhatsApp Privacy
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Five months after announcing changes to its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, WhatsApp will enforce the new measures from this Saturday, May 15 onwards. If you still have any lingering doubts about the consequences of (not) accepting the new terms of service in the instant messenger update, do read on and see what are the changes that will be introduced if accepting the new privacy policy.

  • WhatsApp's new terms of service and privacy go into effect on May 15.
  • WhatsApp will not delete your account if you do not accept the updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
  • Use of WhatsApp features will be limited until you accept the new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Being one of the largest tech companies in a world where just about everyone has the right of choice, Facebook has to jump through numerous regulatory hoops. After all, the company has 3.5 billion monthly active users across its services - that is the equivalent to nearly half the earth's population. And one of these hugely popular services is WhatsApp.

Because of this, when it was first announced that the instant messenger would begin to share user data with Facebook itself, a heated debate took place in popular media as well as various institutions that continue to battle for the right of user privacy to be within the user's own hands.

According to the new terms, WhatsApp users have only two options: to accept data sharing in the app itself with Facebook and its associated companies, or decline the new policy which in turn, will see a reduced feature set. This regression in features will continue until you accept the new terms of use and privacy policy, or you will simply have to pick a different messaging service.

WhatsApp update terms privacy policy
WhatsApp's new terms of use will take effect from May 15, but those who choose not to accept will still have some time to decide on the next step / © NextPit

What happens if you accept the new changes?

First, it is important to make it clear that WhatsApp conversations will continue to use the end-to-end encryption system. This translates to conversations that remain private, where only you and your contacts will be able to access the content of the exchanged messages.

However, by accepting the new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, you will also be sharing the following information with Facebook and its associated companies:

  • Registration Information such as your phone number, name, profile picture, and status.
  • IP Address: even if you do not use the location-related features in the app, the service relies on IP. addresses and other data such as phone number and area codes to calculate your general location.
  • Device information (battery charge, mobile carrier, carrier signal strength, Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram identifiers that allow you to cross-reference data from the same user across all three platforms).
  • Transaction and payment data.
  • Reports and performance records.

In addition, the news also places focus on WhatsApp Business:

  • Usage and log information: data regarding the use of the Stores feature, such as the types of products viewed or purchased, features used, time and actions performed by you, frequency and duration of your activities and interactions.

Also according to WhatsApp's new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, companies that will have access to this data include:

  • Facebook Payments: a payment service from Facebook.
  • Onavo: a web analytics and monitoring service owned by Facebook, which in the past has generated controversy as a rather controversial VPN app.
  • CrowdTangle: a social media analytics and monitoring tool.
  • Facebook Technologies: Oculus VR.

The terms that go into effect on May 15 will enable these Facebook-linked companies to store, manage and process your WhatsApp data.

According to Facebook, in addition to improvements that are related to service security and infrastructure, there are other points to take note of:

  • Enhancement of services and experiences, including suggestions for users (such as content recommendation, group connections, or friends)
  • Integration of WhatsApp with other Facebook services such as Facebook Pay

This allows Facebook to develop its own business solution, thus transforming WhatsApp into an interface for payments and customer relations.

What happens if you don't accept the new changes?

Facebook has made it very clear that it will not delete the account of those who do not accept the new terms of use and privacy policy of WhatsApp. In other words, no one will lose access to WhatsApp's features when May 15 rolls around as the update goes into effect. However, those who refuse to accept the new terms of use and privacy policy will suffer long-term consequences.

You will continue to receive a notification containing information about the new terms of use from WhatsApp, reminding you to accept it. According to the company, there will be a point in the future where this reminder will be permanently displayed and will lead to an ever-increasing number of functions being disabled. When this happens, you will face the following limitations:

  • You will not be able to access your conversations but can only receive voice and video calls.
  • If you are already receiving WhatsApp notifications, you will be able to tap them to read and reply to messages and to return missed voice and video calls.
  • After a few weeks of limited feature usage, you will no longer be able to receive calls nor notifications, and WhatsApp will no longer direct messages and calls to your phone.
  • However, the length of the new grace period remains unclear at this moment. We only know that "not all users will get these changes at the same time".
WhatsApp terms privacy policy 1 1
WhatsApp's usage will be limited until you accept the updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy / © WhatsApp

So even if WhatsApp doesn't delete your account, should you choose not to accept the new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, the app basically forces you to do in order to continue using the instant messaging app.

Remember, you can always accept the updated terms of use and privacy policy within WhatsApp itself.

My opinion: I don't agree to share WhatsApp data with Facebook...for now

Despite all the debate generated in relation to changes in the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy of WhatsApp, a statement that was picked up by TechCrunch via a Facebook spokesman touted that the vast majority of users notified by WhatsApp on the updated terms of use have already accepted these changes.

Yes, Facebook has made it obvious that to continue using WhatsApp with its full feature set will require accepting the new terms of use. Also, do consider that this is a widely used instant messaging app across numerous countries with over 2 billion users worldwide in total. Let's face it, the chances of you continuing to use WhatsApp are huge.

However, you still don't have to accept any of the changes and share your messenger data with companies linked to Facebook, because there will still be no consequences to deal with even after May 15. At least, this is the promise from WhatsApp itself. My suggestion is, why not wait it out to see just how the company will deal with the issue in the coming weeks, or perhaps months, given that no timeframe has been set so far?

In any case, it is important to remember that the option to share WhatsApp information with Facebook has already existed since September 24, 2016. This happened in the first major privacy policy update of WhatsApp, which at that time, was already a part of Facebook for two years.

So, if you were already using the instant messenger back in 2016 and did not opt out from exchanging data with Facebook that year, you most likely would have shared such information between the platforms.

To find out if you are in such a situation, you will first need to request your account data. For this, launch WhatsApp, go into Settings (the three-dot menu on Android or Settings on iPhone), tap Account, and select Request Account  Info. A report with your data will be available within three days. By doing this today, you will still have time to choose whether to accept or decline WhatsApp's new terms of use.

Facebook WhatsApp request report
By requesting data from your account, you can see what is being shared between WhatsApp and Facebook. The result will arrive in three days. / © NextPit

In any case, there are different options in the market when it comes to messaging services, of which some are superior to WhatsApp itself. Check some of them out through the link below:

Personally, I will wait for all of the possible scenarios to play out before I decide whether to accept the sharing of my WhatsApp information with Facebook-linked companies. For now, I am curious to know what is your next course of action:

Have you accepted/will you accept WhatsApp's new Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
View results

Remember that participation in our polls is anonymous! However, we highly encourage debates and exchange of ideas in the comments section.

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Camila Rinaldi

Camila Rinaldi
Head of Editorial

With over 10 years of reviewing smartphones and wearables, I recently became addicted to smart home gadgets. Even though I dove into the Apple ecosystem two years back, Android remains as one of my passions. Previously editor-in-chief of AndroidPIT and Canaltech in Brazil, I now write for the US market. I love my records and I believe that the best way to get to know a place is through its food.

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  • mikedavis May 13, 2021 Link to comment

    That means it is optional to accept privacy policy terms and company wants to merge whatsapp data with facebook for improve users data for their business.

    Also Instagram has already rights to post story on Whatsapp status that means Instagram is also reading our Whatsapp data??