- WhatsApp will share some data with Facebook over, and the privacy changes are mandatory. Millions of people downloaded Signal and Telegram in the past few weeks after WhatsApp announced the imminent changes.
- Facebook’s new banner will explain that WhatsApp will retain all its end-to-end encryption protections. The new mandatory privacy changes cover the optional chats that people might have with businesses in the future.
Facebook started explaining the changes via a WhatsApp Status update a few weeks ago, insisting that WhatsApp chats and calls are always protected by end-to-end encryption that’s enabled by default. Facebook said that some people might be confused about this particular feature.
But Facebook also says that WhatsApp is also making it easier to chat with businesses — emphasis ours:
We’re making it easier to chat with businesses to ask questions and get quick answers. Chatting with businesses is optional.
While chatting with businesses is optional, users can’t opt out of the feature. Say you don’t plan to use WhatsApp to chat with companies you buy goods from. You won’t be able to opt out of sharing data with Facebook. That’s mandatory for almost every WhatsApp user.
Facebook explains that businesses pay for the right to use WhatsApp to reach customers, and this is how WhatsApp makes money and remains free. Facebook did pay nearly $20 billion for the app and has never charged customers anything to use the app. But no software can be available for free, and Facebook has to make money off of WhatsApp.
A blog on the WhatsApp site highlights the sort of data sharing that occurs between WhatsApp and Facebook when a business is involved:
Some shopping features involve Facebook so that businesses can manage their inventory across apps. We display more information directly in WhatsApp so people can choose if they want to engage with businesses, or not.
But it’s still unclear what sort of personal data WhatsApp would send to Facebook and how/if that data will be used to track users across apps.
Interestingly enough, the privacy changes won’t apply to all WhatsApp users, a detail that Facebook might not explain in these banners — here’s what a WhatsApp spokesperson said in early January about the change:
Facebook also snuck in a hit at competitors in the WhatsApp blog, reminding people who downloaded WhatsApp competitors that not all of those apps are protected by end-to-end encryption.
During this time, we understand some people may check out other apps to see what they have to offer. We’ve seen some of our competitors try to get away with claiming they can’t see people’s messages – if an app doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption by default that means they can read your messages. Other apps say they’re better because they know even less information than WhatsApp. We believe people are looking for apps to be both reliable and safe, even if that requires WhatsApp having some limited data. We strive to be thoughtful on the decisions we make and we’ll continue to develop new ways of meeting these responsibilities with less information, not more.
While Facebook doesn’t name any names, it must be referring to Telegram. Signal offers the same end-to-end encryption protection as WhatsApp. You’d have to enable end-to-end encryption in Telegram for each independent chat.