Popular messaging service WhatsApp kicked up a bit of a storm recently after announcing an app update containing some changes to its privacy rules. Once this update is rolled out, users will have to agree to the changes or lose access to the app altogether.
This has led to a lot of concern from users who are worried that WhatsApp will now be able to share their personal data with its parent company, Facebook, as well as other third parties.
However this claim is not true. The rumours circulating on social media about the privacy changes, suggesting that giving your consent means offering up your private information, are largely false. WhatsApp’s update will not in any way mean it can see your messages or share them with anyone else, so if you were thinking of deleting your account in light of the news, you should know that your private information will stay safe and secure.
In light of the backlash and misinformation surrounding the policy changes, WhatsApp has now delayed this update. It was supposed to take place on 8 February, but it’s now been pushed back to 15 May in order to give users more time to understand what’s really being introduced.
So, what do WhatsApp’s new privacy changes mean for you and your data? Let’s find out.
Can WhatsApp or Facebook see my private messages?
Quite simply, no they can’t. In fact, according to WhatsApp’s own website, it:
- Can’t hear your calls or see your call and messaging logs
- Can’t see your shared locations
- Can’t see messages in group or private chats
- Can’t share your contacts
In fact, WhatsApp has said that the update “provides further transparency about how we collect and use data”. So this will actually mean you get more clarity on the data WhatsApp, and therefore Facebook, can see, versus what it can’t.
If you’re concerned, you can actually set your messages to disappear after a certain time period, and download all the data it has collected from you, so you can see exactly what it’s able to access.
What does WhatsApp’s new update mean for you?
The main point of this update is to improve how you can communicate with businesses on the app.
Millions of people around the world already use WhatsApp to securely message customer service teams, in the same way that Facebook Messenger allows you to with most businesses online already.
The new update means that this will soon be available on WhatsApp in the UK and Europe. This is the first step in a plan that WhatsApp hopes will ultimately lead to the introduction of a payment system between customers and companies within the app.
The reason the new update will require express consent to use is because these businesses will need to be able to see the contents of your messages with them, but they will of course only be able to access messages you have sent directly to them. Those messages can then be used by those specific businesses to influence their marketing, some of which could include Facebook advertising.
It’s important to remember that all other chats are still protected by WhatsApp’s ultra-secure end-to-end encryption.
So to be clear: no, WhatsApp and Facebook will not be able to read your private messages.
What information can WhatsApp already see?
The second part of the update is that WhatsApp will be more transparent about how its existing — and unchanging — data protection policy works, rather than an actual ‘update’ like the new feature being introduced above.
WhatsApp has made it clear what information it currently shares with Facebook. This includes:
- Name and phone number, as well as any other personal information given during registration
- The model of the phone you use the app on and the mobile network you use
- Your IP address, which is standard for most internet-based services
- Any payments made through the app (though this currently isn’t available in the UK or the rest of Europe)
If you’re still concerned about your online security, you might want to check our guide on setting up a VPN.