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Facebook confirmed another big change for its controversial WhatsApp privacy terms

Published May 27th, 2021 6:50AM EDT
WhatsApp Privacy Changes
Image: PhotoPlus+/Adobe

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Facebook admitted defeat a few weeks ago in its fight for forcing WhatsApp users to agree to the new controversial privacy policy. The company said it won’t ruin WhatsApp functionality after the May 15th deadline, even if users do not accept the new terms. In an updated FAQ page, the company explained WhatsApp functionality would be significantly diminished for those who do not accept the privacy changes. Accounts would not be deleted, but users would not be able to access chat lists, the page explained. Calls would work, and interacting with notifications would let you respond to incoming texts. After a few weeks of limited functionality, users would not receive calls or notifications, as WhatsApp would stop sending calls and messages to your phone. The only fix would be accepting the new terms of service.

The Indian government then stepped in, demanding that Facebook withdraw the new privacy changes. India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) gave Facebook a week to respond to its letter, threatening additional legal action. Facebook has relented, admitting another defeat. It will no longer block WhatsApp functionality to users who have not accepted the new terms — for the time being.

Facebook said in previous remarks that most WhatsApp users had accepted the terms without offering specific stats. But the early backlash to the planned changes showed many WhatsApp users weren’t happy with Facebook’s decision to force the update. There was no way to reject the privacy changes initially, even though they cover optional e-commerce functionality that Facebook wants to grow in WhatsApp. That hasn’t changed.

Facebook has responded to the Indian government’s letter, reports Live Mint, saying that it won’t cripple WhatsApp functionality. It will continue to remind users of the new policy, at least until India’s upcoming Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill comes into effect. The language Facebook used indicates that it might always change its mind again.

“We have responded to the Government of India’s letter and assured them that the privacy of users remains our highest priority. As a reminder, the recent update does not change the privacy of people’s personal messages. Its purpose is to provide additional information about how people can interact with businesses if they choose to do so,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement.

“We will not limit the functionality of how WhatsApp works in the coming weeks. Instead, we will continue to remind users about the update as well as when people choose to use relevant optional features, such as communicating with a business that is receiving support from Facebook.”

“We hope this approach reinforces the choice that all users have whether or not they want to interact with a business. We will maintain this approach until at least the forthcoming PDP law comes into effect,” the statement reads.

The comments might suggest the user can choose not to interact with a business, which is the kind of optional e-commerce feature that would generate data that WhatsApp will share with Facebook. But they’d still have to accept the new privacy policy. There’s no way to reject the privacy changes. Users who have already accepted them can’t make any changes.

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Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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