WhatsApp defers new privacy policy as clients escape to match applications

WhatsApp is postponing updating its privacy policy following mass confusion over what information it shares with its parent organization, Facebook.

A month ago, WhatsApp started notifying clients of its updated terms of service and privacy policy, which individuals needed to consent to continue to utilize the application after February 8.

One specific section of the policy stirred up worry among clients: what client information is gathered and shared with Facebook, which has a lackluster track record around privacy and ensuring individuals’ information. The confusion surrounding the update has added to a mass of clients moving to competing applications, for example, Signal.

Presently WhatsApp’s update won’t turn out until May 15.

“We’ve heard from so many people how much confusion there is around our recent update. There’s been a lot of misinformation causing concern and we want to help everyone understand our principles and the facts,” WhatsApp said in a blog post on Friday announcing the delay.

WhatsApp’s privacy policy says the client data it gathers might be shared with other Facebook organizations “to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings.” However, WhatsApp recently revealed to CNN Business these information sharing practices weren’t new.

In the Friday blog post, WhatsApp stressed that its platform features end-to-end encryption, which means neither it nor Facebook can see clients’ private messages. It likewise doesn’t keep logs of who clients are calling or messaging. WhatsApp said it can’t see an individual’s shared location and that it doesn’t share a client’s contacts to Facebook.

WhatsApp’s privacy policy was last updated universally in 2016. At that point, it momentarily offered clients the ability to opt-out of sharing information to Facebook. In this most recent update, the reference to that not, at this point accessible opt-out option has been taken out. That implies no extra WhatsApp client information will be shared with Facebook than has been in recent years. The individuals who chose the opt-out option in 2016 won’t be affected.

The bigger update to the policy impacts individuals who chat with businesses on WhatsApp. Organizations that utilization the application to interface with clients can decide to store logs of their discussions on Facebook hosting services. Yet, WhatsApp said it would clearly label the chat so it’s up to the client whether they need to message that business.

“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,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement earlier this week, adding that the company remains “deeply committed to protecting people’s privacy.”

WhatsApp has been making different endeavors to clarify the policy, including by publishing a FAQ on its privacy practices.

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