WhatsApp delays Facebook data sharing policy, but the damage is already done

WhatsApp logo
WhatsApp logo (Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

WhatsApp updated its privacy policy last week, with the platform noting that it would mandate sharing user data with Facebook. The move led to a mass exodus, with users flocking to Signal and Telegram.

Signal is actually down right now because of the influx of users making the switch from WhatsApp, and Telegram revealed that it picked up 25 million new users over the course of the last week.

To limit the damage even further, WhatsApp is now delaying the enforcement of the new privacy policy. The policy was meant to go into effect on February 8, and WhatsApp has now stated that the date has been pushed back to May 15.

In that time, WhatsApp says it will "clear up the misinformation" around how privacy and security works on its platform so that users have a better understanding of the data that will be shared with Facebook:

We're now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms. No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8.We're also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp.We'll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15.

A lot of the issues that WhatsApp faced were of its own making. The platform offered little in the way of clarification around the Facebook data sharing policy, and it was only until there was a full-blown user backlash that WhatsApp actually responded and revealed what information would be shared. WhatsApp says it will not share your contacts with Facebook, nor can it access your location details.

A lot of users found out about WhatsApp's association with Facebook for the first time because of the policy change. I've received dozens of messages from friends and family asking for alternatives to the platform, and a lot of my contacts shifted en masse to Signal. The fact that you can easily move group chats to Signal makes things easier.

So even if WhatsApp isn't going to share user data with Facebook, it made a lot of users question their trust in the platform, and it will be a long road ahead to regain that trust. In a time when Facebook is trying to monetize WhatsApp by introducing business-focused features — which is what the new policy was all about — it may have instead prompted a mass exit.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.