Here’s what you need to know about WhatsApp’s new privacy policy

CEBELIHLE BHENGU

Users of WhatsApp continue to seek answers regarding the extent to which the app will share their data, after wide-ranging concerns about its new privacy policy that will take effect on February 8.

The Information Regulator says it will analyse the revised WhatsApp policy which has driven millions of users to join other messaging services
Picture: Alvy/CREATIVE COMMONS

The policy says WhatsApp will share users’ data with its parent company Facebook and subsidiaries of Facebook. Data that will be shared includes when the user registered to use the company’s services, the groups they’re part of, status, profile picture and whether they are online.

The changes will enable businesses to advertise their products or services directly to WhatsApp users.

The company reached out to TimesLIVE to clarify some of the questions from its users regarding the new policy.

Here are five important things you need to know:

Are my private messages protected?

The company said messages shared between users are not accessible to any third party like Facebook or WhatsApp as they are protected by end-to-end encryption. This also applies to location pins shared between users.

“We will never weaken this security and we clearly label each chat so you know our commitment.”

Yes, but are my call and message logs private?

The company explained: “While, traditionally, mobile carriers and operators store this information, we believe that keeping these records for two billion users would be both a privacy and security risk and we don’t do it.”

And group chats?

Messages shared between users of the same group are also protected by end-to-end encryption. Data related to chat groups is not shared with Facebook for advertisement purposes.

How can I see what information WhatsApp has on my account?

The app gives users the option to request a report which shows the account information it has on them. A full report can be accessible within three days after the request. Once the report becomes available, it will be available for download. Deleting it permanently does not affect the user’s account data.

To continue with the app or not? An expert weighs in

However, a senior security specialist from Network Configurations, Michael Byrne, told TimesLIVE that WhatsApp may “no longer [be] your trusted friend”.

He said: “Information [account registration, operations data etc] will be shared with all Facebook companies to ‘improve their services’, which we all know is a nice way of saying advertising.”

“Facebook has always looked for opportunities to advertise to the end-user, and now by including WhatsApp into that mixing bowl, we will be sure to see a lot more adverts pop up on Facebook relating to conversations or media we have shared on WhatsApp.”

 

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