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Privacy policy update won’t change data sharing practices with Facebook — WhatsApp head

Addressing users’ concerns over privacy, WhatsApp head Will Cathcart clarifies the update effective 8 February will affect business communication, not private.

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New Delhi: WhatsApp’s upcoming privacy policy update, which is set to be implemented on 8 February, has led to much discussion among users about how the messenger service will share data with its parent company, Facebook. Prompted by these concerns, WhatsApp head Will Cathcart has taken to Twitter to clear the air, and insists the data sharing practices will remain unchanged.

The important changes in the policy refer to how user data will be processed henceforth, how businesses can use Facebook services to manage WhatsApp chats, and how WhatsApp partners with Facebook to “offer integrations” with products from Facebook Inc. The news has raised concerns about user privacy and how much data Facebook will be able to access, given that WhatsApp now supports financial transactions and e-commerce.

Cathcart, in a series of tweets on 9 January, said: “I’ve been watching a bunch of discussion this week about the privacy policy update we’re in the process of making @WhatsApp and wanted to share some thoughts.”

The account is not a verified one, but an email response from Facebook to ThePrint confirmed the profile is Cathcart’s own.

“It’s important for us to be clear this update describes business communication and does not change WhatsApp’s data sharing practices with Facebook. It does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family wherever they are in the world,” Cathcart wrote.

Cathcart emphasised in his tweets that WhatsApp communications remain end-to-end encrypted. “With end-to-end encryption, we cannot see your private chats or calls and neither can Facebook. We’re committed to this technology…”

Though WhatsApp cannot see content of a message, there is other user information that WhatsApp does collect and some of this information is shared with Facebook. This currently includes: A user’s account registration information (like phone number), “transaction data, service-related information, information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using our services, mobile device information”, and the user’s IP address. The IP address is a string of numbers assigned to a device by an internet service provider and can be used to track the physical location of a device.

Even WhatsApp’s 2019 privacy policy stated it shared information with Facebook.

Also read: Govts want backdoor entry to encrypted WhatsApp texts. It can also be backdoor for hackers

No option not to share info

Cathcart’s tweets, however, do not address how the updated privacy policy coming into effect from 8 February lacks a section saying users have the option to not have their WhatsApp account information shared with Facebook. This option was provided in WhatsApp privacy policy versions from December 2019 and July 2020 (the current version).

Cathcart tweeted the purpose of updating the privacy policy was “to be transparent and to better describe optional people-to-business features”.

According to Cathcart, as many as 175 million users message a WhatsApp business account daily, and at present, it is “too hard” for businesses and customers to effectively communicate. This is why, “features like Shops and Pay can help people buy things they want from businesses on WhatsApp”, and such tools will also help businesses respond to customer demands more effectively.

Also read: This is how you can make payments on WhatsApp with its new UPI-based service


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  1. It was the greatest mistake made by WhatsApp announcing such changes. Most of the internet users know that FAcebook and everything connected to it always collected user’s data. And telling it aloud of course didn’t made a favour. So in such case I can recommend people to switch to Signal, Telegram or Utopia p2p. The last one doesn’t even require your phone number or any data during the registration. Moreover, it has lots of additional functions and will care about your data using the highest level of encryption.

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