Thursday, March 30, 2023

WhatsApp has been sharing your data with Facebook for years, in fact

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Since Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, users wondered and worried about the amount of data that would flow between the two platforms. Many of them have had a rude awakening this week, as a new in-app notification raises awareness of a step WhatsApp actually took to share more with Facebook in 2016.

Monday, WhatsApp update its terms of use and privacy policy, primarily to develop its practices on how business users of WhatsApp can store their communications. A pop-up informed users that as of February 8, the app’s privacy policy will change and they must agree to the terms to continue using the app. As part of this privacy policy update, WhatsApp has also removed a passage on disabling the sharing of certain data with Facebook: “If you are an existing user, you can choose not to share your WhatsApp account information. with Facebook to improve your Facebook ads and product experiences. ”

Some media and confused WhatsApp users naturally assumed that this meant WhatsApp had finally crossed a line, requiring data sharing with no alternative. But in fact, the company claims that the deletion of the privacy policy simply reflects how WhatsApp shares data with Facebook since 2016 for the vast majority of its 2 trillion-plus users.

When WhatsApp launched a major update In accordance with its privacy policy in August 2016, it started sharing user information and metadata with Facebook. At that time, the courier was offering its billion existing users 30 days to disable at least part of the sharing. If you chose to opt out at the time, WhatsApp will continue to honor that choice. The feature is long gone from the app settings, but you can check if you’ve deactivated your subscription through the “Request account information” section. function in the settings.

Meanwhile, the billion WhatsApp users added since 2016, as well as anyone who missed that opt-out window, have had their data shared with Facebook all this time. WhatsApp pointed out to WIRED that this week’s privacy policy changes do not actually affect WhatsApp’s existing practices or behavior when it comes to sharing data with Facebook.

“Our updated terms and privacy policy provide more information about how we treat your data and our commitment to privacy,” WhatsApp wrote Monday. “As part of Facebook businesses, WhatsApp partners with Facebook to deliver experiences and integrations into the Facebook family of apps and products.”

None of this has at any time affected WhatsApp selection function: end-to-end encryption. Messages, photos, and other content that you send and receive on WhatsApp can only be viewed on your smartphone and on the devices of the people you choose to communicate with. WhatsApp and Facebook itself cannot access your communications. In fact, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to expansion end-to-end encryption offers as part of the linking of the company’s various communication platforms. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t yet a wealth of other data that WhatsApp can collect and share on how you use the app. The company said it collects information about users “to operate, provide, improve, understand, personalize, support and market our services.”

In practice, this means that WhatsApp shares a lot of information with Facebook, including account information such as your phone number, logs on how long and how often you use WhatsApp, information about how you interact. with other users, device IDs and other device details like IP address, operating system, browser details, battery status information, version of application, mobile network, language and time zone. Transaction and payment data, cookies and location information are also all fair game to share with Facebook based on the permissions you give WhatsApp in the first place.

“WhatsApp is great for protecting the privacy of the content of your message,” says Matthew Green, cryptographer at Johns Hopkins University. “But it’s as if the privacy of everything you do is up for grabs.”


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