Facebook acquired WhatsApp back in February 2014 for a staggering $19 billion. At that time, the service had 500 million users; it now boasts over 2 billion users today.
Facebook tried a lot of methods to monetize WhatsApp over the years, introducing business accounts to allow brands to chat with customers and even turning the platform into an e-commerce destination. That said, the app was left as its own entity, and Facebook didn't meddle too much into the core service itself.
- Profile name
- Profile picture
- IP address
- Your phone number and contacts list
- App logs
- Status messages
This is the exact move that WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum said the service wouldn't make following news of the Facebook acquisition:
But that stance changed in 2016, when WhatsApp started sharing data with Facebook. Users could opt out of doing so at the time, but that is no longer an option. If you're a WhatsApp user and don't agree to the new terms, you won't be able to use the app after February 8. For what it's worth, Koum left Facebook in 2018 following disagreements around data gathering and privacy.
So why is WhatsApp changing its policy now? The answer is simple: ads. Facebook is intent on turning WhatsApp into an e-commerce service, and it is running trials in India with Jio for the same.
I use WhatsApp every single day to talk to friends and family, interact with PR folks, get updates from my bank, new show alerts from Netflix, and so much more. WhatsApp is so intertwined into the fabric of the internet in countries like India that it's not possible to dissociate from the service. Facebook knows this very well, and that may have been one of the main motivators behind the policy shift.
If you're in a position to switch away from WhatsApp, now is the time to do so. Signal is a great alternative, and it uses the same encryption protocol as WhatsApp. There's also Telegram if you need a more feature-rich platform.
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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.