WhatsApp privacy policy update: All you need to know before agreeing to new terms

Alvin R. Cabral

Published on January 9, 2021 at 12.38

KT explains the new WhatsApp updates that you need to agree to before February 8.

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In case you missed it, WhatsApp has just sent out a pop-up message on its app — or is it a warning? — saying that its terms of service and privacy policy will be changed. And you don’t have much of a choice: Take it or leave it, as you’ll soon find out. — Images: and screeshots from WhatsApp website.
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So what does this new update mean?
Let’s get this out of the way: This isn’t for the first time WhatsApp is updating its terms of service and privacy policy. Most software services do that anyway as part of a standard practice in order for users to continue using the services. The user accepts the new conditions and policy and moves on. So why the alarm bells this time over WhatsApp? It’s because the Facebook-owned app is giving users a deadline of February 8 to accept the new policy or cease using the wildly-popular app altogether. Consider this an ultimatum, then.
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Let’s look at what’s changing
The older version of the privacy policy started with these lines: ‘Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA. Since we started WhatsApp, we’ve aspired to build our Services with a set of strong privacy principles in mind.’
These lines are no longer part of the new privacy policy, although WhatsApp will continue to remain end-to-end encrypted as we know it, meaning the app still can’t see your messages nor share it with anyone. However, the new policy update suggests an increasing link-up with Facebook. That’s the good news ... and that’s about it.
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After that, the real worry begins here. But what’s the worry anyway?
WhatsApp’s new privacy policy says that when users sign up for “third-party services or other Facebook Company Products integrated with our Services, those third-party services may receive information about what you or others share with them”.
In other words — according to WhatsApp, too — when you as a user sign up for this service, information such as IP address may be provided to the third-party in question or to another product owned by Facebook. So, technically, nothing has changed… except that WhatsApp has now chosen to elaborate further on what it means by “data sharing”.
Yet what should worry you and me right now is how more people will have greater access to your data. Remember how you use Google Drive or iCloud to backup your chats? These services stand to get access to your messages.
A lot of us don’t read the terms and conditions in full before accepting them but WhatsApp has explained in great detail how they work with Facebook and its group of companies, including the kind of information which is exchanged. This includes information around safety and security around Facebook products and service experiences such as making suggestions for users, personalised content around purchases and transactions.
A good example of WhatsApp-Facebook integration is the ability to transact on WhatsApp using Facebook Pay, which is right now available in the US.
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The software part is done. Will WhatsApp be collecting any hardware information too?
What we know right now, according to WhatsApp, is that it is also collecting new information from your device, including battery level, signal strength, app version, browser information, mobile network, connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP), language and time zone, IP address, device operations information and identifiers. What you should know is that none of these were mentioned in the previous policy. (Image: Reuters)
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So you want to delete your WhatsApp now? There’s an update for that, too
The new privacy policy also highlights that if someone only deletes the WhatsApp app from their device without using the in-app delete my account feature, then that user’s information will still remain stored on the platform. So just deleting the app from your phone won’t be enough, just so you know.
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What about data location and storage?
WhatsApp also mentions in its privacy policy that it uses Facebook’s global infrastructure and data centers, including those in the United States to store user data. This was not explicitly mentioned in the previous policy as was the fact that even if a user does not use their location-relation features, they will still collect “IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location (city, country).”
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So what have you decided to do with your WhatsApp app on your phone? Or are you giving them more time to, maybe, hopefully, relent? Let us know.
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