New Privacy Policy Won’t Impact Private Communication: WhatsApp

Whatsapp has clarified on the recent controversies about the new privacy policy 

Updated
Tech and Auto
4 min read
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Responding to questions and in a bid to dispel ‘rumours going around’, Whatsapp published an FAQ on Tuesday, 12 January on its updated privacy policy.

“With some of the rumors going around, we want to answer some of the common questions we have received,” the official blog stated.

WhatsApp reiterated that its ‘policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way’.

Sharing the blog on Twitter, WhatsApp head Will Cathart stated that the policy update describes business communication and adds transparency. “It does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family,” Cathart tweeted.

Among the major highlights of WhatsApp’s FAQ are assertions that it does not keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling, doesn’t share contacts with Facebook and that groups remain private.
A chart published by WhatsApp on 12 January
A chart published by WhatsApp on 12 January
(image: WhatsApp)

The blog also clarified that Facebook may now have access to messages that users share with businesses on WhatsApp and this constitutes the main change in the new policy update.

In light of the privacy concerns surrounding WhatsApp’s new terms and conditions, the company had earlier issued a statement on 8 January stating that the update ‘does not change WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices with Facebook’.

In a bid to allay user fears, WhatsApp had added in its statement on 8 January, that the new update ‘does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family wherever they are in the world’.

A spokesperson told The Quint that the changes pertain to a user’s communication with businesses that operate on WhatsApp and to the data that she shares with the business accounts.

WhatsApp Highlights Seven Privacy Features

The FAQ blog highlights seven privacy features. They are:

  1. Can’t see private messages or hear your calls, and neither can Facebook
  2. We don’t keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling
  3. We don’t share your contacts with Facebook
  4. We can’t see your shared location and neither can Facebook
  5. Groups remain private
  6. You can set your messages to disappear
  7. You can download your data

Business Accounts on WhatsApp Can Use Our Data

The blog specifies that ‘messaging with businesses is different than messaging with your family or friends’.

According to WhatsApp, what this means is whether a user communicates with a business’ WhatsApp account ‘by phone, email, or WhatsApp, it can see what you’re saying and may use that information for its own marketing purposes, which may include advertising on Facebook’.

The blog explains, some large businesses need to use hosting services to manage their communication. “Which is why we’re giving businesses the option to use secure hosting services from Facebook to manage WhatsApp chats with their customers, answer questions, and send helpful information like purchase receipts.”

What this means is that Facebook may now have access to messages that users share with businesses on WhatsApp and this constitutes the main change in the new policy update.

Facebook has admitted that it may have access to user messages when it provides hosting services to business.

“When Facebook acts as a hosting provider to a business, it will use the messages it processes on behalf of and at the instruction of the business. This is an industry standard practice among many companies that offer hosting solutions,” the company stated in a blog on 22 October, 2020.

It tries to assure users that, “While Facebook will not automatically use messages to inform the ads that a user sees, as is always the case, businesses will be able to use chats they receive for their own marketing purposes, which may include advertising on Facebook.”

On 9 January, WhatsApp Head Will Cathart, in a series of tweets, stated, “With end-to-end encryption, we cannot see your private chats or calls and neither can Facebook.”

“We’re committed to this technology and committed to defending it globally,” he added.

Policy Does Not Impact Private Chats with Friends: WhatsApp Public Statement

WhatsApp on Tuesday, 5 January, updated its Terms of Services and its Privacy Policy and started sending in-app notifications to its users informing them about a change. The new terms and privacy policy will come into effect on 8 February 2021.

According to the new update, WhatsApp users will not be able to send or receive messages after 8 February till they accept the updated terms and conditions.

The Facebook-owned company issued a new statement to clarify its position regarding the new updates in the wake of the cocnerns that have emerged.

A WhatsApp spokesperson told The Quint that a user’s account won’t be deleted after 8 February if she doesn’t accept the new update. Rather the user will not be able to send or receive texts and the account will be rendered inactive till she accepts the update.

Here’s what WhatsApp has to say in its public statement issues on 8 January:

“As we announced in October, WhatsApp wants to make it easier for people to both make a purchase and get help from a business directly on WhatsApp. While most people use WhatsApp to chat with friends and family, increasingly people are reaching out to businesses as well.

To further increase transparency, we updated the privacy policy to describe that going forward businesses can choose to receive secure hosting services from our parent company Facebook to help manage their communications with their customers on WhatsApp. Though of course, it remains up to the user whether or not they want to message with a business on WhatsApp.”

Speaking about the privacy policy changes, WhatsApp assured its users that the update won’t change data sharing practices and won’t impact one-to-one communication.

The update does not change WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices with Facebook and does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family wherever they are in the world. WhatsApp remains deeply committed to protecting people’s privacy. 
Whatsapp Spokesperson

“We are communicating directly with users through WhatsApp about these changes so they have time to review the new policy over the course of the next month,” the statement added.

Further, Cathcart, took to Twitter to reiterate that the company is ‘committed to providing private communication’ protected by end-to-end encryption and ‘that’s not changing’.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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