WhatsApp says latest update does not change its data-sharing practices with Facebook
Facebook-owned WhatsApp has said its latest update, which has received criticism from a multitude of users globally, describes business communication and does not change its data-sharing practices with the social media giant.
WhatsApp said users would have to agree to the new terms and policy by February 8, 2021, in order to continue using the service.
This kickstarted a spate of conversations and memes on the internet over WhatsApp's alleged sharing of user information with Facebook.
Rival platforms like Signal and Telegram are reportedly seeing a surge in downloads in the wake of the development.
Tesla chief Elon Musk had also joined in the conversation, asking people to leave WhatsApp.
In a series of tweets, WhatsApp Head Will Cathcart sought to share his views on the matter. He said the company updated its policy "to be transparent and to better describe optional people-to-business features".
"It's important for us to be clear; this update describes business communication and does not change WhatsApp's data-sharing practices with Facebook. It does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family wherever they are in the world," he said.
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WhatsApp emphasised that with end-to-end encryption (E2E), it cannot see private chats or calls and neither can Facebook, and that the company remains committed to E2E.
"We're in a competition on privacy with others and that's very good for the world. People should have choices in how they communicate and feel confident that no one else can see their chats. There are people who disagree with this, including some governments," Cathcart said.
Concerns over data sharing
The tweets, however, received varied responses from users with many continuing to point out concerns around the sharing of user data between WhatsApp and Facebook.
Meanwhile, Telegram Founder and CEO Pavel Durov in a blog alleged that Facebook's WhatsApp had switched to covert marketing and it had detected bots that spread inaccurate information about Telegram on social media.
Durov also sought to clarify "myths" that were allegedly being pushed by WhatsApp about Telegram, which has over 500 million users globally.
He said "myths" that Telegram's code was not open-source, that the company was Russian, and that the platform was not encrypted - were all incorrect.
Signal app too joined the conversation with its series of tweets. One of the tweets said: "Look at what you've done" and carried a picture of the app showing as the number one free app on the app stores across markets like India, Germany, France, Austria, Finland, Hong Kong, and Switzerland.
In another tweet, Signal said, "There are no Terms of Service for a mother's love", taking a dig at the ongoing controversy.