The company informed those users through an in-app notification which lays out the changes in very broad terms: the updates to the policy include “more information about WhatsApp’s service and how we process your data, how businesses can use Facebook hosted services to store and manage their WhatsApp chats, [and] how we partner with Facebook to offer integrations across the Facebook Company Products.”
Upon further inspection, the updated policy makes clear that data collected by WhatsApp — including user phone numbers, “transaction data, service-related information, information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using our Services, mobile device information, your IP address” and more are subject to be shared with other properties owned and controlled by Facebook.
The shift appears to be a dramatic about-face for WhatsApp, a company that contends “respect for your privacy” is coded into its DNA and made end-to-end encryption standard across all chats as of 2016.
That said, one could read the change in policy as a move toward greater openness — WhatsApp may have already been collecting and sharing all that data, before deciding to define the scope of the data involved in this most recent update. If that’s the case, a push for greater clarity has led mainly to more consternation.
WhatsApp has said other things, however. In a comment provided to PCMag, a spokesperson noted that — functionally speaking — very little would change for existing WhatsApp users, and that people who previously opted out of data sharing with Facebook back in 2016 will remain opted out, even upon acceptance of the new terms. In comments provided to Ars Technica in the wake of the news, Facebook has also said that the change is primarily focused on changing the way businesses interact with their customers on the platform. Meanwhile, Niamh Sweeney, WhatsApp director for policy for EMEA, noted on Twitter that users in Europe won’t have to worry about their data being shared with Facebook, at least for ads.