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WhatsApp delays, but will not change, controversial privacy policy update

In light of global backlash and "misinformation," WhatsApp will now delay its privacy policy update.

The update will see the company share a wider breadth of user data with Facebook and its subsidiaries when contacting Business accounts While in the past users could opt in or out of sharing their data with WhatsApp parent company Facebook, the new update now makes this mandatory when contacting businesses on the platform "We’ve heard from so many people how much confusion there is around our recent update," WhatsApp said in a blog post. "There's been a lot of misinformation"

WhatsApp is delaying the rollout of its highly-contested privacy policy update, which will see the company share a wider breadth of user data with Facebook and its subsidiaries when contacting Business accounts. Originally slated for February 8, the update will now go live on May 15.

While in the past users could opt in or out of sharing their data with WhatsApp parent company Facebook, the new update now makes this mandatory when contacting businesses on the platform.

“We’ve heard from so many people how much confusion there is around our recent update,” WhatsApp said in a blog post announcing the delay. “There’s been a lot of misinformation causing concern and we want to help everyone understand our principles and the facts.”

The blog post continued: “The update includes new options people will have to message a business on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data. While not everyone shops with a business on WhatsApp today, we think that more people will choose to do so in the future and it’s important people are aware of these services. This update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook.”

Related: Cybersecurity expert weighs in on WhatsApp privacy policy controversy

It’s important to note that despite what’s being shared online on social media, WhatsApp will still not be able to view your messages or listen in on audio and video calls. Communication on the platform remains end-to-end encrypted, meaning only the users sending messages amongst each other can view the communication they’re sharing. 

The instant messaging platform faced heavy backlash from the public, media, entrepreneurs, and even government officials following the announcement of the aforementioned update. The reaction was so strong that rivals like Signal and Telegram are seeing an influx of new users – so much so, that Signal servers have been overloaded, even. 

Before deciding to delay the update, WhatsApp released an infographic to help people understand what was changing, given the misinformation online: 

When it realized the global outcry was too great to ignore, the company decided to delay the update. 

Looking back to WhatsApp’s history under the ownership of Facebook, we can see a gradual escalation in the amount of data the platform has been gathering.

“Upon acquiring WhatsApp in 2014, Facebook pledged that the messaging app would not be required to share any data with its parent company, but it reneged on its promise in 2016, prompting an outcry at the time,” the Financial Times notes. 

Now, in 2021, we are seeing the next step in this progression.