WhatsApp will share more user data with Facebook

Users of popular instant messaging service WhatsApp will no longer have the choice of opting out of sharing their personal data with Facebook.

On Monday, WhatsApp published a new privacy policy and terms of service, revealing how it plans to share user data with parent company Facebook and its subsidiaries in future.

The policy, which comes into effect on 8th February, enables WhatsApp to share significantly more user data with Facebook, as the social networking giant aims to enhance business usage across group companies.

‘As part of the Facebook family of companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, this family of companies,’ WhatsApp’s new privacy policy states.

‘We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customise, support, and market our Services and their offerings.’

WhatsApp currently collects user data including phone numbers, profile names, profile pictures, status messages and the phone numbers stored in address books.

Under the new terms, Facebook will have the right to share that data with its family of companies.

In a case where a user interacts with a third-party business through WhatsApp, Facebook may also share user information with those outside entities.

‘The information we share with the other Facebook Companies includes your account registration information (such as your phone number), 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 may include other information identified in the Privacy Policy section entitled ‘Information We Collect’ or obtained upon notice to you or based on your consent,’ WhatsApp states in its new privacy policy.

Facebook companies include Facebook Technologies, Facebook Payments, Onavo, CrowdTangle Facebook Technologies Ireland, WhatsApp, and WhatsApp Ireland.

WhatsApp has started informing its users about the new requirement through an in-app alert, asking users to agree to the changes. Users who refuse to accept the revamped privacy policy will lose access to the app completely after 8th February.

The upcoming change will certainly disappoint users who want to minimise their data sharing with Facebook. The decision is also expected to irk privacy experts and cybersecurity advocates, who have long warned against data pooling among big technology firms.

The move comes nearly a month after it was reported that more than 40 US states are planning to file a lawsuit against Facebook over possible antitrust violations.

A report by Reuters claimed last month that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also considering bringing in a separate but related complaint against Facebook in district court, or with an administrative law judge.

Investigators are reportedly looking at the way in which the social media giant manages its user data, and the policies that govern how third-party app developers and other firms can access that data.

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