The Truth Behind The New WhatsApp Policy

Facebook Inc.’s subsidiary WhatsApp messenger updated its policy and has begun alerting its 2 billion users to an update of its privacy policy. And if they want to keep using the popular yet useful messaging app, they have no option but to accept it. The new Whatsapp Policy and terms policies, delivered in early January 2021, have caused an outcry among technology experts, the app users, the privacy advocates, billionaire entrepreneurs and even government organizations. The update has triggered a wave of defections to rival services. The messaging apps say the change is necessary to help it integrate better with other Facebook products.

Will WhatsApp share your messages with Facebook Inc?

The answer is No. The Whatsapp policy 2021 does not change the way WhatsApp treats your chats. WhatsApp remains end-to-end encrypted which means no third party can read them. In one of its official statement, WhatsApp claimed that: “The new update does not change WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices with Facebook Inc and does not affect how you communicate privately with friends or family… the platform remains deeply committed to protecting people’s privacy.”

WhatsApp policy

What data will WhatsApp share with Facebook?

The data exchanging process with Facebook is in fact, already taking place. While the users located in the European Union have a choice to opt-out of data-sharing with Facebook, but the rest of the world does not have the same choice.

The messaging app shares the following information with Facebook and its other companies: 

  • the account registration information (phone number) 
  • all transaction data (WhatsApp now has payment services in India) 
  • the service-related information, 
  • data on how you interact with others (including businesses) 
  • mobile device information, and your IP address. 

The platform is also collecting more information at a device hardware-level now.

What happens to your messages?

The app has reiterated that all of your messages are end-to-end encrypted. In a layman language, this means that neither WhatsApp nor third parties will neither have access and cannot read your messages.

“Nothing that you share on WhatsApp platform, the data which includes your messages, photos, and account information, will be shared onto Facebook Inc or any of our other family of apps for others to see, and nothing that you post on those apps will be shared on WhatsApp for others to see,” WhatsApp claims.

This app doesn’t store your messages once they have been delivered. Messages and other data are stored on the user’s device and not on WhatsApp’s servers. Once your messages have been delivered, they are deleted from the platform’s servers.

In we talk about the course of delivering a message, platform’s servers store undelivered messages in encrypted form for up to about 30 days and if a message is still undelivered after 30 days, the app claims to delete it.

“When a user forwards a media within a particular message, we store that particular media temporarily in the encrypted form on our servers to aid in the more efficient delivery of additional forwards,” added by Whatsapp.

What happens to your transaction data?

Now, you might wonder that the new Whatsapp Policy does to your transaction data. We believe that you are aware of that WhatsApp has launched a payments feature in India. As it says that if you use the WhatsApp Pay, the additional information, that includes payment account and transaction information is processed by the company. This is the data required to complete the transaction process such as payment method or shipping details and transaction amount.

“If you use the Whatsapp payments services by our platform that is available in your country or territory, our privacy practices are mentioned in the applicable payments privacy policy,” it adds up.

What about the advertisement?

The popular messaging app does not allow third-party ads on its services. “We do not have any intention to introduce them, but if we ever do so, we will update this Whatsapp Privacy Policy,” it claims.

However, WhatsApp can use the data that it has about you to communicate with you about its services and market its services and those of the other Facebook companies.  

What about businesses and third-part services?

WhatsApp Business, recently launched by WhatsApp, allows businesses to communicate and connect with customers through its app. This can include making purchases with the help of the app, or businesses that are contacting you, sending you the order confirmations, your flight tickets and tickets to other events, etc.

While chats that take place between you and a Business are also end-to-end encrypted, WhatsApp says that once the message has been received, it will be subject to the business’s privacy practices and policies.

“Some businesses will be able to choose Facebook to securely store messages and respond to customers. While Facebook will not automatically use your messages and data to inform the ads that you can see, businesses will be able to use chats that they receive for their marketing and promotion purposes, that might include advertising on Facebook. You can always contact that business to know more about its privacy practices and features,” WhatsApp says.

Is the Whatsapp Policy Feb 2021 just for India or global?

The Whatsapp policy announced are global, but they would not be applicable everywhere. 

WhatsApp’s non-implementation of its policy in the European Union region is likely the result of stricter regulations and laws surrounding data protection. For example, Facebook’s ability to share any of its EU users’ data to the United States has been already questioned by European regulators.

Do we have to accept the privacy policy?

There is no choice but accept, this is the standard practice for most software. If you do not want to, you can choose to delete your account and switch to another service.

What happens if you delete your account?

The platform says that when you choose to delete the WhatsApp account, all of your undelivered messages are deleted from the app’s servers along with your other data it no longer needs to operate and provide its services.

However, users who wish to delete must ensure they not only uninstall WhatsApp but also delete their account from WhatsApp. This can be done by moving to settings, then open Account and choose ‘Delete my account’.

A lot of users are switching to Signal and Telegram from WhatsApp.

Signal is another messaging app which is free and end-to-end encrypted, and which has gained a popularity push in light of the new WhatsApp policy. WhatsApp uses the Signal’s protocol for its encryption process.

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