WhatsApp users received a message today stating WhatsApp can share user data with Facebook, whenever users message businesses that use Facebook through the app.
In the notice is a brief overview of the changes, the first of which is how WhatsApp processes user data (as well as an explanation of how WhatsApp will more deeply integrate with Facebook in the future).
Due to take effect in a month’s time, on February 8, the changes are compulsory – you won’t be able to use the app if you decide to reject the update.
The user data that could be shared with Facebook includes WhatsApp account registration, phone numbers, transaction data, service-related information, interaction information, mobile device information, IP address, and ‘other information identified… or obtained upon notice to you or based on your consent.’
Facebook’s reasons for requiring the data aren’t entirely clear, but Facebook claims it is for ‘understanding how our services or [WhatsApp’s] are used’, ‘improving their services’, ‘making suggestions for you’, ‘personalizing features and content’ and ‘showing relevant offers and ads across the Facebook Company Products.’
But crucially, user data can now be shared with businesses using Facebook to store their WhatsApp messages.
If users object to their data being stored on Facebook, then they would have to not message those businesses.
One aspect of the update is to assist WhatsApp in integrating with Facebook more closely, as well as its family of products.
Many have expressed concern about the potential negative privacy implications of the update, as well as removing the option to opt out.
WhatsApp and Facebook have been in trouble with regulators for privacy breaches in the past.
In 2016, Facebook was fined £96 million for sharing WhatsApp user information internally and misstatements about the data sharing, after Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014 was approved by the EU with the knowledge that data would not be shared.
Facebook are also currently the subject of a US government antitrust lawsuit, with its 2014 WhatsApp forming a large part of the question to whether the Facebook group of companies forms a monopoly.
WhatsApp has also previously protested against user data transparency, denouncing Apple’s requirement that developers submit information about user data in privacy labels on the App Store, arguing it could give the app a competitive disadvantage.