WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy Confusing You? All Your Questions Answered

WhatsApp is updating its privacy policy and Terms of Service this year that is mandatory (so far) for all users who wish to continue using the messaging app. The development came via an in-app notification earlier this month and is also available to access on WhatsApp support page. As per the new changes, the company notes that some personal data that belongs to users would be shared with Facebook’s other applications, as well as partners to provide better ad experience (on Instagram or Facebook). The new update applicable for all WhatsApp platforms that include WhatsApp for Android, WhatsApp for iPhone, WhatsApp web and desktop app.

Similarly, several critics and data privacy advocates deemed the latest WhatsApp policy as problematic as users now have a unilateral choice. It essentially means that users who do not comply with the changes regarding its data collection policy have no other choice other than either accepting the new rules or leaving the app altogether. Naturally, many have taken the alternate route and are joining rival platforms like Signal and Telegram. Users also fear that the new Terms of Service allow Facebook to access private chat, which the social media giant has categorically denied several times.

What user data will WhatsApp collect and share: WhatsApp says that they collect user information to be able to provide services and customise the experience for the user. Among the information that gets shared with WhatsApp include: mobile phone number, profile name, phone model, screen resolution, IP address, language, coarse location (approximate location and not the exact address). Facebook-owned WhatsApp insists that they do not retain your messages and says that sent or received messages are not stored on their servers. “Once your messages are delivered, they are deleted from our servers,” the company highlights clearly. However, there are scenarios where your messages may stay on WhatsApp servers temporarily—that is if a message remains undelivered for a certain period of time up to a maximum of 30 days in the encrypted form, after which it is deleted as well as media forwards that are temporarily stored in encrypted form to improve the efficiency of additional forwards.

How will the new privacy rules impact users: For the end-user, the most likely effect will be more targeted ads across Facebook-owned platforms such as Messenger, Instagram, and Facebook. The company will be able to show you more relevant ads based on the metadata collected through the messaging platform.

When will the new policy come to play: WhatsApp has delayed the new policy launch to May 15 from February 8. The company had said that it is postponing the changes following misinformation and confusion over its upcoming rules. Notably, WhatsApp has also reached out to users directly via a full-page newspaper ad and WhatsApp Status to clarify concerns over the Terms of Service.

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What action is the government taking: Recently, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) asked WhatsApp to withdraw changes in the privacy policy, saying they are not fair and acceptable. The proposed changes to the WhatsApp Terms of Service and Privacy Policy “raise grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens,” it said in a letter to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart. The ministry has also asked the company to withdraw the proposed changes and reconsider its approach to information privacy, freedom of choice and data security. On the other hand, the Delhi High quashed a PIL that sought actions against the company. The court had said that the changes are voluntary and users may leave the platform if they disagree with new rules.