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WhatsApp updates privacy policy: How to stop your phone number being sent to Facebook


When Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, users of the popular messaging platform feared the worst when it came to the company’s stance on privacy and restriction of ads. At the time, both Facebook and WhatsApp said the service would continue to operate independently.

Fast forward two years and things are starting to change, with the announcement that WhatsApp will start sharing some of the data of its more than 1 billion users with parent company Facebook.

Information that will be shared includes users’ phone numbers, as well as the last time that they used the service. The sharing of data is not limited to Facebook and also includes Facebook’s family of companies, the likes of which include Instagram and Oculus.

WhatsApp says the sharing of information will allow Facebook to offer up better friend suggestions and provide you with more relevant ads on the social network. It will also assist in fighting abuse and spam across the services.

WhatsApp has always been a big supporter of the privacy of its users. It rolled out end-to-end encryption by default for all users in April and even landed in hot water, earlier this year, with Brazilian authorities over the refusal to provide chat conversations.

Users opted-in by default

What is concerning with the data-sharing change is that WhatsApp users are by default opted into the new change when they agree to the new terms, and how often do users read terms and conditions.

The majority of users are likely to simply agree to the new privacy policy without actually realizing what they are agreeing to. While users are able to do a partial opt-out of the privacy policy, the opt-out period is limited to just 30 days.

The privacy policy change could also face scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission. A letter was sent to both companies after the acquisition warning that they would face an investigation if promises made to customers were not kept.

How to partially opt-out of WhatsApp’s data sharing

It isn’t possible to opt out of WhatsApp’s data sharing completely unless you stop using the app, but the company is offering a partial opt-out.

A partial opt-out will prevent Facebook ad targeting and other product related purposes. However, the company will still share your data “for other purposes such as improving infrastructure and delivery systems, understanding how our services or theirs are used, securing systems, and fighting spam, abuse, or infringement activities,” WhatsApp said in a statement.

Option 1:

When you open the latest version of WhatsApp on your iOS or Android device you will be presented with thenew Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

To opt out, tap ‘Read’ > at the bottom of your screen, uncheck the box next to ‘Share WhatsApp account information with Facebook…’ > tap Agree.

WhatsApp - opt out

Option 2:

If you happily agreed to the terms without realizing what you were actually agreeing to, there is still a way to partially opt out. However, you will only have 30 days to do it, so don’t delay.

On your iOS or Android device, open WhatsApp > Settings > Account > scroll down to Share my account infoand uncheck the box.

Source: WhatsApp, Via SiliconAngle

Image credit: Sam Azgor; Flickr
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