whatsapp update

WhatsApp privacy update: Five important things you need to know

Andile Sicetsha - 07.01.2021

WhatsApp will share more of your personal information from February and you have no choice.

Many WhatsApp users are looking for a more secure messenger service after the Facebook-owned app issued a notice on its updated privacy policy on data sharing.

WhatsApp sparks fears after ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ policy update

If you’ve been on WhatsApp recently, then you were probably hit with a pop-up message from the app prompting you to accept updated data policies which, in summation, state that personal information like IP addresses, contact numbers and media data will be shared with Facebook and its company products.

Users are allowed to delay accepting the new data policy update but from 8 February 2021, all bets will be off. Users who have not pressed ‘Accept’ may not be allowed access to the app.

Five important thing you need to know about the data policy update

Generally, people don’t have the patience to sift through large bits of information and the updated privacy policy is exhaustive, to say the least. So, to aid users in making an informed decision on whether to accept the new policies — or not — we have isolated five important things you need to know about WhatsApp’s new data policy update.

Messages are still end-to-end encrypted

WhatsApp makes it clear, throughout the updated privacy policy statement, that user messages are still end-to-end encrypted. Messages are, for the most part, stored in the user’s phone and only in the instances listed below will they be stored in WhatsApp’s servers:

  • Undelivered Messages are kept in encrypted form on their servers for up to 30 days; and
  • Forwarded media is kept temporarily in encrypted form on servers “to aid in more efficient delivery of additional forwards.”

Instances where your personal data is sent to WhatsApp

The messaging app does state that, while texts remain end-to-end encrypted, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t able to access this personal data.

Screenshots of conversations shared on the platform — or any of Facebook’s apps — can be accessed by WhatsApp and used to market their services. These are the other instances where your personal data is sent to WhatsApp:

  • When you link your contact book to the app;
  • when you use the location service to share your whereabouts;
  • when you use the status feature;
  • when you upload a profile picture and edit the ‘about’ form; and
  • when you use third-party apps

No matter what, WhatsApp knows where you are

WhatsApp gives its users the right to restrict location sharing. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t provide an accurate guess on where you are.

Already, the app has your phone number and with this, they are able to use it and other sophisticated means to accurately predict your location.

Third-Party apps used on WhatsApp share your data

If you use third-party backup apps like Google Drive and iCloud, the information you share will be used by those platforms for the very same reasons WhatsApp does.

Also, sharing an article and other third-party content on WhatsApp equips the Facebook-owned app with more important information about your interests.

Your information is shared with other Facebook companies

All of this personal data, according to the updated policy statement, will be shared to Facebook’s other companies. Your personal Instagram account and its data will be grouped together with your Facebook and WhatsApp profiles. All of this gives Facebook a greater level of accuracy in defining your user profile for marketing purposes.