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After a global outcry, WhatsApp issues clarification, delays enforcement of updated privacy policy: Read full details

"We're moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms. No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8", WhatsApp clarified.

After facing flak from its users regarding an update in its privacy policy, popular messaging app WhatsApp has announced that it will be delaying its privacy update plan that had a February 8 deadline. Announcing its decision on January 15, the Facebook owned messaging app, said that it will be providing more time to its users to ‘understand the policy update’. “There’s been a lot of misinformation causing concern and we want to help everyone understand our principles and the facts”, it said.

In its blogpost, WhatsApp clarified that under the updated policy there will be no changes in its privacy policy concerning personal conversations, location, contacts etc. It said that messages sent on WhatsApp would still have end-to-end encryption and that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook would be able to see private messages, location or contacts of users.

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The policy update that was announced by WhatsApp earlier this month was interpreted by its users as a major shift in its privacy and data-sharing policy. In a notification that popped on opening the app, the changes made in the privacy policy were indicated.

WhatsApp had said that as part of its new privacy policy it would share user data with other Facebook companies. This led its users to believe that WhatsApp would now be able to peek into personal messages of its users and it would share the personal data of users with Facebook. Facebook-owned Whatsapp had given February 8th as the date after which the app would stop working on devices and accounts would be suspended if the new policy was not accepted. As a result, many people started moving to other apps like Signal and Telegram looking for a substitute.

Interestingly, Facebook and Twitter combined has lost over $52 billion after they had banned Trump from their platforms. Following the privacy update, Signal had seen a massive spike in downloads. Both these results could have eventually led WhatsApp to delay its privacy update policy.

WhatsApp, after widespread outrage and exodus of users to Signal, was compelled to issue a clarification that the new policy supposedly did not violate user privacy and it was not going to share any personal data of users with Facebook. “We’re moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms. No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8. We’re also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security work on WhatsApp. We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15”, WhatsApp clarified.

Assuring its users about protecting their privacy, WhatsApp said that it helped bring end-to-end encryption across the world and that it was committed to defending security technology now and in the future.

Detailed overview of privacy policy changes made by Whatsapp

Whatsapp had updated its website with a detailed overview of what the changes in the policy of the app meant for the users earlier.

“Our Services have optional features which, if used by you, require us to collect additional information to provide such features. You will be notified of such a collection, as appropriate. If you choose not to provide the information needed to use a feature, you will be unable to use the feature. For example, you cannot share your location with your contacts if you do not permit us to collect your location data from your device. Permissions can be managed through your Settings menu on both Android and iOS devices,” Whatsapp wrote.

The Facebook-owned messaging service also expanded on how much of the data is collected automatically by the app. “We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports,” WhatsApp said.

“This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information,” WhatsApp added.

Whatsapp is the largest messaging service in the world with over 2 billion monthly active users. However, an insidious in-app notification, forcing users to accept the new privacy policy has set off alarm bells ringing for the privacy-conscious users, who are now making a beeline to dump the app and shifting to more secure and reliable alternatives. Messaging apps Signal and Telegram are the two frontrunners that have caught the fancy of these set of disenchanted Whatsapp users who are looking to migrate to other platforms amidst the growing privacy concerns.

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OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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