You Should Be Worried About WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy

TL;DR: WhatsApp will be sharing your personal data such as your phone number and other information with Facebook advertisers starting February 8.

Whatsapp’s new terms and privacy policy changes will start to take effect on February 8. This seems like an innocent move from Facebook but the fact that you are forced to agree on the new privacy policy is a cause of concern on its own.

All aboard the Signal/Telegram spaceship?

Facebook advertisers can initially use Facebook ads to target specific profiles. They do this by providing Facebook with an excel sheet that contains information like your email and phone number. This is done using a Custom Audience.

With the new WhatsApp terms, it’s much easier for advertisers to acquire and use that information. Since WhatsApp will be integrated with other Facebook products, advertisers can target you on different Facebook platforms based on your device location and phone number that you will be blindly accepting to share on WhatsApp.

This might explain why Facebook is so eager to force users to accept the new terms and conditions without making it easy to opt out from the new changes. Phone numbers are precious data that can identify real humans.

Facebook advertisers trying to hunt you with targeted adverts

On Linkedin web (not the mobile app), I can choose not to share my contact list, phone number and even location. This is not the case with WhatsApp.

And when it comes to data retention, I deleted my Facebook account years ago. When I recently tried to create an account with the same email, Facebook started recommending friends and relatives even though the account was new and I didn’t add any friends yet. I’m not sure how Facebook knew this, as if my data wasn’t technically deleted but archived?

Facebook has always been a sketchy company, and with the rollout of the new terms and conditions on WhatsApp, I think we should be worried and we should find alternatives.

EDITS #1

On Tuesday November 2021, WhatsApp clarified in a tweet what it does NOT share with Facebook but didn’t clarify what it shares with it.

With so many blurred lines from a tweet that I assume is intended to mitigate the backlash, I’d like to highlight a few things:

  • “WhatsApp cannot see your shared location..” : This is I assume the location that you share through messages-which are encrypted, but it doesn’t mention your device’s location when you turn on location services on your mobile.
  • “WhatsApp does not share your contacts with Facebook” : WhatsApp clarifies in this statement that it won’t share the actual phone numbers with advertisers but I believe they are aiming to allow businesses to target your contacts if you engaged or purchased something from a WhatsApp business account. A similar concept is being used on Facebook right now.

Even if you read their privacy policy, you really cannot tell exactly how they use the information that they collect, leaving it super vague while legally valid.

Take a look at this example statement from WhatsApp’s privacy policy:

Information You And We Share

You share your information as you use and communicate through our Services, and we share your information to help us operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services.

And then they follow this sentence up with a list of information that you share while using WhatsApp like your phone number, profile name and photo.

In their third point, they mention that Third-Party providers are involved in consuming your data, but you really cannot tell how they are using their data. What can someone understand from the sentence : “We work with third-party providers to help us operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services.”, it’s just too vague, who are these providers? What are they doing with this data?

In Conclusion, as the old saying goes “If it’s free you are the product”. Whatever your stance on the new WhatsApp update, remember that Facebook is a giant player in this field and that it owns most of the world’s popular social media platforms, I’m surprised that there are still competitors like TikTok dominating the field.

Wow you read all this? Props to you sir for digesting it all. Thanks for reading !

Let me know your opinion on this in the comments !

Azure, .Net & SharePoint Developer. Basically a Microsoft tech guy.