WhatsApp issues clarification over new privacy policy, says individual chats to remain ‘private’ even after update

The contacts that WhatsApp accesses are only meant to provide users with a quick messaging platform, it said.

WhatsApp Privacy Policy: Since last week, instant messaging platform WhatsApp has been the recipient of heavy criticism due to its updated privacy policy, which it has mandated all users to agree to. Due to this lack of option and the removal of the points indicating user discretion in the sharing of data with parent company Facebook, people have been giving a tough time to the messaging platform, with some even switching to alternative platforms. However, now, WhatsApp has issued a clarification regarding the new policy, saying that individual chats would not be affected by the changes whatsoever.

In a couple of posts shared on microblogging site Twitter, the Facebook-owned platform said that the privacy policy update would in no way affect privacy of the users’ chats with their friends and family, as the messages sent on chats would continue to be protected by end-to-end encryption.

WhatsApp asserted that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook could see the messages users sent to each other, and they could not hear the conversations over calls either. Apart from that, the platform also did not maintain a record of who was messaging or calling whom, and the groups on WhatsApp were also private. Moreover, the location shared by users could also not be accessed by WhatsApp or Facebook. The instant messaging platform also said that it did not share anyone’s contacts with Facebook. For additional security, it said users could also set their messages to disappear, and they could download their own data.

In a newly released FAQ page, the platform said that the recent update was rather related to the managing of businesses on WhatsApp, which is an optional feature businesses can use as it offers some additional features that aid in smooth running of business-to-customer communication.

Among the clarifications on the FAQ pages, the platform repeatedly highlighted that all messages sent on private individual or group chats are protected by end-to-end encryption, including the location that one user shares with another. Apart from that, it also asserted that while telecom service providers do maintain logs of calls and messages, WhatsApp chooses not to do so for its 2 billion users, because it believes that would be a huge privacy and security risk.

The contacts that WhatsApp accesses are only meant to provide users with a quick messaging platform, it said, and WhatsApp did not share these contacts with Facebook.

This clarification has come amidst major uproar over the privacy policy which is set to come into effect on February 8 this year.

As for businesses, the platform said that users’ interactions with the business accounts on WhatsApp, which is clearly indicated in the chat, can be used by the businesses to improve their own marketing, and businesses can also choose to share this information with Facebook. This means the users’ chats with businesses regarding any queries, their shopping activities, their purchase receipts, and interaction with businesses across Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram could be collected by Facebook to personalise ads and shopping experiences and product displays across the three Facebook-owned social media platforms, WhatsApp said.

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