You’ll lose access to WhatsApp after 8 Feb, unless you agree to Facebook data sharing

WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging app that sells itself as a privacy-focused service, will start forcing users to share personal data with Facebook, its parent company.

In an announcement sent out to users on Wednesday, WhatsApp said users will have to agree to let Facebook and its subsidiaries collect WhatsApp data, including user phone numbers, contacts’ phone numbers, location, and more.

If users do not agree by 8 February, they will lose access, WhatsApp has confirmed, though its documentation

  • WhatsApp is changing its terms of service to force users to share personal data, including phone numbers and location, with its parent company Facebook.
  • Some critics — including Tesla CEO Elon Musk — have suggested users move to encrypted messaging apps Signal and Telegram.
  • A WhatsApp spokesperson told Ars Technica the change was to allow businesses to store WhatsApp chats using Facebook infrastructure.
  • The messaging app sells itself as a privacy-focused service.

The move prompted calls for users to delete their WhatsApp accounts and switch to smaller encrypted messaging apps such Signal and Telegram.

“Signal and Telegram are now better alternatives if you are concerned about your privacy,” tweeted TechCrunch editor Mike Butcher, who shared a side-by-side comparison of the data WhatsApp collects versus Signal and Telegram.

Tesla billionaire Elon Musk was among those who recommended users switch services, simply tweeting: “use Signal.”

Nine hours earlier, Musk also seemingly criticised Facebook as bearing responsibility for the rioters who attacked the US Capitol on Wednesday, via a sardonic meme.

Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014, and in 2016 gave users the one-time chance to opt out of having app data shared with Facebook. WhatsApp was not immediately available to comment on why it had decided to override this.

A WhatsApp spokeswoman told Ars Technica the change was to allow businesses to store WhatsApp chats using Facebook’s broader infrastructure.

WhatsApp’s founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum left the company in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Acton has spoken publicly about his departure, which followed the decision to introduce ads to WhatsApp, and has called for people to “delete Facebook.”

Koum’s departure was also surrounded by reports that he had clashed with management over the company’s approach to user privacy on WhatsApp. – Business Insider US

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