Users are forced to accept WhatsApp integration with Facebook

Despite the US government’s attempts to break up Instagram and WhatsApp from Facebook, the company appears to be tightening its grip over the world’s most popular instant messaging service. If you open WhatsApp this morning, you’ll probably see a pop-up about a new terms and privacy policy update which will take into effect from 8th February 2021. You must agree to the terms or else you will not be able to access your chats.

As highlighted by TheHackerNews, the new WhatsApp terms primarily focuses on integration with Facebook and it allows Facebook hosted services to store and manage WhatsApp chat. After its acquisition in 2014, WhatsApp has been sharing information with Facebook which is used to understand the market and to assist them in operating and providing their services.

The new terms would allow deeper integration with Facebook and other related apps and services. According to the privacy policy, this will enable them to “connect your WhatsApp experiences with other Facebook Company Products.” This include connecting your Facebook Pay account on WhatsApp and to allow you to chat with your friends on Facebook Company Products by connecting your WhatsApp account.

Of course, the terms also allow WhatsApp to personalise features and content to help you complete purchase and transactions by showing “relevant offers and ads” across Facebook products. This could mean Facebook ads might appear on WhatsApp and the information they collect can be used for ad targeting purposes.

Under the “Automatically Collected Information” section, the new WhatsApp terms appear to collect even more usage and log information. The current privacy policy mentions collection of basic activities such log file, diagnostic, crash, website and performance logs and reports. Here’s what WhatsApp is collecting with the new terms:

Usage And Log Information. We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports.

This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.

On top of that, the new terms also allow WhatsApp to automatically collect precise location info:

Location Information. We collect and use precise location information from your device with your permission when you choose to use location-related features, like when you decide to share your location with your contacts or view locations nearby or locations others have shared with you. There are certain settings relating to location-related information which you can find in your device settings or the in-app settings, such as location sharing. Even if you do not use our location-related features, we use IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location (e.g., city and country). We also use your location information for diagnostics and troubleshooting purposes.

If you want to check out the nitty-gritty details, you can compare the terms of service (current / new) and the privacy policy (current / new). For those who don’t agree, you are given the option to delete your WhatsApp account.

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Alexander Wong