WhatsApp is doing damage control after its recent policy update by assuring people that the change does not affect the privacy of their messages with friends or family in any way.
Among the changes is a clause that allows Facebook to share data from WhatsApp across its other products. In addition to its social network service, Facebook owns Instagram and Oculus VR.
This did not sit well with many people, and a media storm quickly erupted around WhatsApp privacy and concerns about sharing user data with Facebook.
The company told MyBroadband that WhatsApp will not mandate data sharing with Facebook.
“There will be no change in WhatsApp’s data sharing with Facebook for non-business chats and account information,” it said.
Facebook said that the main thing users should keep in mind about its new policy is that when messaging a business, they will now have the option to use Facebook’s secure hosting infrastructure to host their WhatsApp chats if they don’t want to store their messages themselves.
“Every user will be notified within the chat if the business they are talking to has chosen to use Facebook’s secure hosting infrastructure to store their WhatsApp messages, and people do not have to message or interact with businesses on WhatsApp if they choose not to do so,” Facebook said.
It added that users can easily block a business on WhatsApp if they want and that they are not mandating users to share data with business messaging.
The image below shows the WhatsApp policy update on Android and iPhone.
WhatsApp still protects and secures your messages
On Tuesday, WhatsApp provided further information about the policy change, assuring users that they continue to protect private messages with end-to-end encryption.
The company highlighted that it cannot see your private messages or hear your calls, and neither can Facebook.
“We will never weaken this security and we clearly label each chat, so you know our commitment,” WhatsApp said.
WhatsApp also doesn’t keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling and can’t see your shared location (and neither can Facebook).
“We don’t share your contacts with Facebook, groups remain private, you can set your messages to disappear, and you can download your data.”
WhatsApp reiterated that the policy update relates to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.
WhatsApp shared the image below in social media posts to confirm its commitment to user privacy.
Big increase in Telegram and Signal users
The information shared by WhatsApp and Facebook did not negate the wave of negative publicity they received on social media.
It has resulted in many people vowing to stop using WhatsApp and move to services like Telegram and Signal. Many seemed to have followed through on their promise.
Telegram product manager Pavel Durov said in the first week of January, Telegram surpassed 500 million monthly active users.
He added that 25 million new users joined Telegram in the last 72 hours alone. 38% of these users came from Asia, 27% from Europe, 21% from Latin America, and 8% from MENA.
Durov said this is a significant increase compared to last year, when 1.5 million new users signed up every day.
“We’ve had surges of downloads before, throughout our 7-year history of protecting user privacy. But this time is different,” he said.
“People no longer want to exchange their privacy for free services. They no longer want to be held hostage by tech monopolies that seem to think they can get away with anything as long as their apps have a critical mass of users.”
He said with half a billion active users and accelerating growth, Telegram has become the largest refuge for those seeking a communication platform committed to privacy and security.
Signal has seen equally impressive growth which was partly driven by an endorsement from Elon Musk.
Signal’s Brian Acton said their messaging app topped the rankings on the App Store in 40 countries and on Google Play Store in 18 countries.
Sensor Tower said Signal received around 7.5 million installs between 6 January and 10 January, representing a 4,200% week-on-week increase.
The main reason for the increased Telegram and Signal downloads is privacy concerns.
The table below provides an overview of the privacy details for WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal.
|User ID||No data linked to your identity|
|Contact info||Phone number
|Usage data||Advertising data
|User content||Other (not messages, photos, or audio data)|
We want to address some rumors and be 100% clear we continue to protect your private messages with end-to-end encryption. pic.twitter.com/6qDnzQ98MP
— WhatsApp (@WhatsApp) January 12, 2021
Telegram surpassed 500 million active users. 25 million new users joined in the last 72 hours: 38% came from Asia, 27% from Europe, 21% from Latin America and 8% from MENA. https://t.co/1LptHZb9PQ
— Telegram Messenger (@telegram) January 12, 2021
WhatsApp head Will Cathcart comment
Today we’re answering some common questions we’ve received @WhatsApp. Our policy update describes business communication and adds transparency. It does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family.
— Will Cathcart (@wcathcart) January 12, 2021