Facebook-owned WhatsApp is asking its users to sign up to a new terms and conditions agreement. Here’s what’s happening and why.
Didn’t WhatsApp update its terms before?
Some users saw it as Facebook trying to get more of people’s personal information and a large number of people flocked to rival chat apps like Telegram and Signal – although that doesn’t necessarily mean they stopped using WhatsApp of course. WhatsApp had to go back on the update and said it would give more time. Note that it did not say this issue would go away.
So what’s happening now?
WhatsApp is now asking users to agree to the terms and conditions in a more subtle way, using a banner at the top of your Chats list. If you click the x to close it, it will reappear after a while.
What is Facebook actually changing here?
Contrary to popular opinion, all WhatsApp chats are end-to-end encrypted and can’t be accessed by Facebook.
WhatsApp says “the update includes new options people will have to message a business on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data. WhatsApp stresses these new features are “entirely optional”.
“While not everyone shops with a business on WhatsApp today, we think that more people will choose to do so in the future and it’s important people are aware of these services. This update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook.”
“We don’t keep logs of who everyone’s messaging or calling. We also can’t see your shared location and we don’t share your contacts with Facebook.”
However, WhatsApp added that the business features are part of how the app can be provided for free. In other words, businesses are charged for these features. “Some shopping features involve Facebook so that businesses can manage their inventory across apps. We display more information directly in WhatsApp so people can choose if they want to engage with businesses, or not.”
What data does Facebook have then from WhatsApp?
Facebook does get “some limited data” from WhatsApp – your phone number that you add when you log in and details about your mobile device for example. Many apps have access to this information.
What does WhatsApp say about rival apps?
“We understand some people may check out other apps to see what they have to offer” says the company. “We’ve seen some of our competitors try to get away with claiming they can’t see people’s messages – if an app doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption by default that means they can read your messages.” It’s clear that Telegram is in the spotlight here, as it doesn’t offer default end-to-end encryption, though there is an option for it. Signal is more secure and uses encryption, however,
Do I need to agree to keep using WhatsApp?
In a word, yes. There’s a 15 May deadline though you can accept at any point after that. Your account won’t be deleted if you don’t agree to the new terms but WhatsApp says “you won’t have full functionality of WhatsApp until you accept. For a short time, you’ll be able to receive calls and notifications, but won’t be able to read or send messages from the app.” Ouch.
If you want to leave, you can export your chats before the deadline.
Here’s WhatsApp’s full FAQ on the update if you want more information.