When Facebook acquired text messaging app WhatsApp back in February 2014, it promised the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it would honor the privacy rights of WhatsApp. The text messaging app made its popularity on respecting the privacy of its users, and that became a concern for WhatsApp and its users around the time of the acquisition. Facebook promised it would respect the privacy of WhatsApp and its users, but it seems as though that respect for privacy promise is soon to end.
That’s the latest with new screenshots from Javier Santos, who shared some screenshots from an upcoming WhatsApp update twelve days ago showing that the new messaging update encourages info sharing with Facebook. The new update, given update number 2.12.413, shows an option to “share my WhatsApp account information with Facebook to improve my Facebook experiences.” The account settings allows you to “share my account info.”
Unfortunately, the sharing info option must remain enabled or you’ll head down an irreversible path. When you try to disable account sharing, you’ll see the following popup message: “Are you sure you want to stop sharing? If you continue, you won’t be able to change this in the future.” In other words, you either share forever or, if you have some reservations, not enable this feature at all.
The claim for sharing your WhatsApp information is not to improve WhatsApp, but to “improve your Facebook experiences,” which is a vague statement by default. How will enabling this option improve my Facebook experience? What types of data will be shared with Facebook and how will these data help my Facebook encounter. There is an end-to-end encryption option that can also be selected, however, which may give some users optimism about the WhatsApp/Facebook sharing option.
Still, the screenshots show the agenda behind why WhatsApp just eliminated the $1 user fee – because the company would start sharing Facebook data and wanted to give users a free incentive in return for their user data. At the same time, however, the removal of the $1 user fee isn’t a good incentive to willingly give up one’s data to a company (Facebook or WhatsApp) that won’t honor user privacy. Apparently, that promise about honoring user privacy is short-lived. Even if the option can be enabled or left alone, there’s no way to know for sure if WhatsApp and Facebook are living by the privacy promise.