Facebook famously bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014 – and since then, one main security feature added to the app was end-to-end encryption. This was to ensure users’ messages and other content are kept secure and private – so they can only be seen by users.
WhatsApp has reassured users that they will not be sharing any messages users send and receive – due to the end-to-end encryption, they would not be able to do this anyway.
However, the information WhatsApp says it will share includes the phone number of a user and usage statistics regarding the app.
WhatsApp states they will share the information with the ‘Facebook family of companies’, which also includes the popular photo-sharing app, Instagram, to name just one.
On their site, they say they are sharing some information as it ‘allows us to coordinate more and improve experiences across our services and those of Facebook and the Facebook family‘. As well as helping to ‘be able to more accurately count unique users‘ and ‘better fight spam and abuse‘, WhatsApp also state that ‘if you are a Facebook user, you might see better friend suggestions and more relevant ads on Facebook‘.
It’s evident that the underlying reason of doing this is for marketing purposes. Although Facebook makes a lot of money from businesses marketing their company using the website – WhatsApp has seemingly been against ads from the start. But that may be changing as in their blog post, WhatsApp said:
We joined the Facebook family of companies in 2014. As part of the Facebook family of companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, this family of companies. 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, customize, support, and marketour Services and their offerings. This includes helping improve infrastructure and delivery systems, understanding how our Services or theirs are used, securing systems, and fighting spam, abuse, or infringement activities. Facebook and the other companies in the Facebook family also may use information from us to improve your experiences within their services such as making product suggestions (for example, of friends or connections, or of interesting content) and showing relevant offers and ads. However, your WhatsApp messages will not be shared onto Facebook for others to see. In fact, Facebook will not use your WhatsApp messages for any purpose other than to assist us in operating and providing our Services.
So how do I opt-out?
Although the data being shared is not relatively sensitive, some users may still want to opt-out of sharing their data with Facebook.
If you’re an existing user, you can choose not to share your account information with Facebook, here’s how.
Before accepting the new terms, tap ‘Read’.
Then, uncheck the box which says ‘Share my WhatsApp account information with Facebook…’ and tap ‘Agree’.
If you’ve already accepted the new terms, WhatsApp state you will have an additional 30 days to make this choice by going to Settings > Account > Share my account info in the app. If you do not want your account information shared with Facebook to you can uncheck the box.