Good news for WhatsApp users in South Africa

WhatsApp has released a statement on its website informing users that they will not immediately lose functionality if they fail to accept the company’s new terms of service and privacy policy by 15 May.

This is a softening of the Facebook-owned mobile instant messaging app’s original stance on the deadline.

It previously warned that users will lose some functionality if they don’t accept the new terms and policy by the deadline.

“If you haven’t accepted by then [15 May 2021], WhatsApp will not delete your account. However, you won’t have full functionality of WhatsApp until you accept,” the company had originally warned users.

“For a short time, you’ll be able to receive calls and notifications, but won’t be able to read or send messages from the app.”

Facebook first issued a notice to WhatsApp users about the changes in January, with the original cut-off date set for 8 February 2021.

Facebook extended the deadline following widespread backlash over concerns from users that WhatsApp user data would be shared with the Facebook social network.

The concerns arose due to the wording of the initial notice. It said that one of the key updates was more information about how WhatsApp partners with Facebook to offer integrations across Facebook’s family of products — WhatsApp, Instagram, Oculus VR, and Facebook itself.

Within a day of the social media backlash, Facebook issued a statement assuring WhatsApp users that the privacy policy changes were only about business messaging.

“There will be no change in data sharing with Facebook for non-business chats and account information, and with regard to business messaging, we are not mandating users to share data,” Facebook stated.

Facebook said the main thing users should keep in mind about its new policy, is that businesses will now have the option to use Facebook’s 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,” said Facebook.

“Users can also still easily block a business on WhatsApp if they want.”

By 16 January, Facebook announced that it was delaying the implementation of its new terms of service and privacy policy, and giving users until 15 May 2021 to opt in.

Now Facebook has said that no-one will lose functionality on the day of the deadline.

Screenshot showing the limited functionality that will be available in WhatsApp in the weeks following 15 May 2021
WhatsApp — What to expect after 15 May 2021

Instead, it said that users will eventually be shown a “persistent reminder” to accept the new terms, which will block access to their contact list.

“For the last several weeks we’ve displayed a notification in WhatsApp providing more information about the update,” WhatsApp stated.

“After giving everyone time to review, we’re continuing to remind those who haven’t had the chance to do so to review and accept. After a period of several weeks, the reminder people receive will eventually become persistent.”

This will not happen to all users at the same time, it said.

After it becomes impossible to dismiss the reminder notification, WhatsApp said users will have limited functionality until the accept the new terms and privacy policy.

“You won’t be able to access your chat list, but you can still answer incoming phone and video calls. If you have notifications enabled, you can tap on them to read or respond to a message or call back a missed phone or video call.”

After a few weeks of limited functionality, you won’t be able to receive incoming calls or notifications and WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to your phone.

Now read: How fraudsters use Facebook and WhatsApp to steal money from South African mobile customers

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Good news for WhatsApp users in South Africa