WhatsApp has been allowed to share data with Facebook since 2016 but never said they would use user data such as chats/group names/group chats with Facebook. In 2016 there was also an option for users to opt out of sharing their data with Facebook. This opt-out option is no longer available however, WhatsApp will not share the data of those who chose to opt-out in 2016.
Despite the fact that there were to be no changes made to personal chats by the new policy, Whatsapp faced significant backlash. People became worried that WhatsApp would be able to read their conversations, view other personal information and share this data with Facebook. The situation was not helped by Facebook’s shaky reputation concerning data privacy. Users were also apprehensive due to WhatsApp’s order to either accept the terms by February 8th or be locked out of their accounts.
Many users have begun using apps Signal and Telegram in place of Whatsapp as these apps place a heavier emphasis on privacy. Elon Musk and Edward Snowden both tweeted, recommending Signal. Snowden responded to a tweet saying there was no reason to use Signal with, “Here’s a reason: I use it everyday and I’m not dead yet”.
In an effort to reassure its users, WhatsApp stated that it cannot view messages or calls between users as they are end-to-end encrypted and that WhatsApp does not share contacts with Facebook. However, messaging a business on WhatsApp may not be confidential. Businesses will be allowed to store logs of their conversations using Facebook hosted services. These business accounts will be clearly labelled on WhatsApp so that users will know that their conversations may be recorded.
WhatsApp has extended the deadline to accept these terms to May 15th but have stated that there will be no change to the policy when it is inevitably introduced. The company has also promised to offer significantly more clarification on the policy before this date. In an attempt to clarify the features of the update, WhatsApp published a list of FAQ’s to its website.