For the first time since it was acquired by Facebook back in 2014 for close to $20 billion, Whatsapp has updated its terms of service. In a move that’s sure to irritate some users, the company says it will begin to share a limited amount of user data with Facebook.
“By coordinating more with Facebook, we’ll be able to do things like track basic metrics regarding how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp,” says the company in a blog post announcing the new terms of service.
“And by connecting your phone number with Facebook’s systems, the social can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you’ve never heard of.”
The messaging app also notes it’s beginning to explore ways to allow businesses to contact users. Facebook’s own messaging app, Messenger, already allows users to communicate with business through chat bots. In Whatsapp’s case, the company doesn’t posit advertising as the main use case for business-to-user communication. For instance, the company sees envisions banks contacting users through Whatsapp to tell them about fraudulent transaction, while airlines might do the same to tell ticket holders a flight has been delayed.
While Whatsapp is quick to attempt to preempt any criticism of its new terms of the service, its new rules are sure to feel like a betrayal to many of its more than 1-billion users. When the company was acquired by Facebook in 2014, founder Jan Koum said privacy would always be at the heart of Whatsapp.
“Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible: You don’t have to give us your name and we don’t ask for your email address. We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address. We don’t know where you work,” said Koum in a blog post published at the time. “We don’t know your likes, what you search for on the internet or collect your GPS location. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that.”