In 2014 social networking giant, Facebook, acquired WhatsApp. Two years later and the two services are looking for a way to coordinate their offerings. While there are various reasons for this happening, such as preventing spam and abuse, it mainly boils down to one. They want to track how users are utilizing their application and, unsurprisingly, show them relevant ads. Ultimately, they want to monetize the app by making it easier for businesses to communicate with WhatsApp users.
The problem is that many people originally flocked to WhatsApp because of the security and privacy that it boasted. Some of these new changes will alter that forever. While they do promise not to share your phone number with others, one of the main reasons behind the modification is offering you better Facebook friends suggestions and more polished advertisements. Many are not interested in this new aspect of WhatsApp, and there has been plenty of debate about the change in direction.
What does this mean to the average user?
Well, if you haven’t logged in since terms were updated, it means you’re going to be asked to agree to the new policy update. You can choose to do so or refuse, which is explained a bit further down in the article. This only applies to current WhatsApp users, however. If you are starting a new account, there is no option to deny the new terms. Assuming you’re a new user or a past user, and you do choose to accept, the biggest change is that Facebook will have access to many parts of your WhatsApp data.
The policy states that your phone number and messages will not be shared on Facebook, but will be shared with Facebook along with anyone in their family of companies. It’s unclear the entire extent of what this will mean in the future. For now, what we know is that Facebook will have access to certain information from WhatsApp. The shared data information includes your last time using WhatsApp, what device you are running the app on, your phone number listed on WhatsApp, as well as the operating system used to access the application.
Can I opt out of sharing my data?
If you are not a brand new member of WhatsApp, you can choose to opt out of this new policy. This is done in two different ways, depending on whether you have already accepted the terms previously or not. The first way is for those who have not yet chosen to agree to the new policy change. It’s an easy set of instructions that you can manage in only a few moments.
- Go ahead and open WhatsApp, where you’ll see an update screen.
- Ignore that big green Agree button and click on the button that says Read more.
- If all goes well, a popup will jump off. Click Agree at this point.
At this stage, your WhatsApp will look just like normal, and you can go ahead and use it as you wish. Now for those of you who have already accepted the terms, there’s an alternative way to handle the situation. Read on because it’s straightforward and easy.
Here’s what you do:
- Tap on the WhatsApp application on your mobile device to open it.
- If you are on IOS, hit the lower right corner Settings tab. If you are on Android, tap the upper right corner for the overflow button, then select Settings.
- Choose Account from the menu.
- You will see a check mark next to Share my account info. Tap that checkmark.
- From there, just tap Don’t Share.
I will warn you now that this doesn’t avoid the total sharing of your information. It only stops Facebook from using this data for advertisements and product placement. They can still use the data for things like improving infrastructure, securing systems, fighting spam, and other things of the nature. So if you still aren’t happy with the data share, it may be time to move on to another application that will better suit your needs.
Are there alternatives to WhatsApp?
A plethora of options exists when it comes to mobile messaging systems. However, you’re not going to find anything that’s a replica of WhatsApp. What you can find are some apps with the security you want, features you want, and more. A few of them are listed for your convenience, along with some basic pros and cons that come with them. However, make sure you do some research before switching, as these will not be super in-depth.
- Wickr– this app is kind of interesting as it offers self-deleting messages. No worries about others seeing what you’re sending if it disappears after a set time. An option for those who enjoy Snapchat and similar applications.
- Google Allo – this isn’t out yet but will be a strong contender once it is. Will offer seamless Google integration, expiring chats, and incognito mode. However, provides only moderate privacy and is for IMs only.
- Telegram– Telegram is a cloud-based messaging service with strong encryption, open source, and more. It’s an attractive solution but can offer a bit more than some are looking for in a simple messaging application.
So there you have it. If you have been out of the loop about WhatsApp sharing data with Facebook, you should have a clear understanding of what it all means now. If you are a long-time user of WhatsApp, you may be happy with choosing not to consent to the change, and going on. Others may want to switch to a more secure application. Whatever the case, just be aware of what you’re sharing and where it’s going. It will make your online endeavors much more satisfying!