Whatsapp Facebook Data Sharing: Downloadable Messenger App To Start Sharing Your Phone Number With Facebook, But Here’s How To Opt-Out And Protect Yourself

WhatsApp may soon share your phone number with Facebook, according to recent reports. Data sharing is a tough business, and companies have privacy policies in place that you’re asked to comply with before you are permitted to access their site. However, if you don’t understand the technical mumbo-jumbo, you can easily get lost in a sea of jargon and not really know what you’re agreeing to (assuming you even read the policy, which many don’t). With that in mind, here are some ways you can protect yourself from the upcoming “data dump.”

The Details

AndroidCentral.com mentions that the data WhatsApp collects will be used to show more accurately targeted ads on Facebook and improve friend suggestions. As their name might imply, targeted ads use data like your location and pages you’ve liked to discern what you might be interested in next. WhatsApp’s plan is far from nefarious, but users may still be concerned if they don’t want their data and personalized information in the hands of Facebook.

A Samsung Galaxy S5 user viewing the WhatsApp messenger app. [Image via Shutterstock.com/ dennizn]
This is nothing new in a sense as many applications share their information with or receive data from Facebook. Targeted ads are how social media titans make money because if the ads are relevant, you’re more likely to click on them. Simple, no?

Ad Nauseum

On WhatsApp’s website, the company informs consumers that it does not sell ads. This fact won’t change, but the app will start trading data to advertisers. Whether this is a decision you’re comfortable with will be up to each individual user. If you’re not, read on.

Opting Out

WhatsApp does not let users totally opt-out of data sharing. However, Techcrunch.com noted that a partial opt-out is doable (meaning that your data will still be shared for things like infrastructure development). You can do via two methods: either uncheck the box in the new Terms & Conditions page that allows WhatsApp to share your data (at the bottom) or by accessing Settings->Account->Share My Account Info and turning that option off. The latter option will have to be done within thirty days of clicking Accept on the new WhatsApp T&C page.

Getting back your private data. [Image via Giphy.com]

Peace of Mind

WhatsApp’s settings page mentions that your number won’t appear on Facebook should you opt-in to personalized ads. Additionally, your WhatsApp chats won’t appear or in any way merge with those held on Facebook. Furthermore, WhatsApp will continue making it optional for you to have a Facebook account to use the messaging service. If you do choose to share your data, there are more perks for those using Facebook, such as getting more accurate friend suggestions.

Other Options

If you’re entirely uncomfortable with WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, there are other more secure applications that can trump them on privacy. Telegram, for instance, is available for Android and iOS and encrypts all messages by default. CryptoCat (located at Crypto.cat) can be downloaded for Linux, PC, and Mac and offers super-secure chatting. As they put it, “your service provider couldn’t access the chat if they wanted to.”

Take these suggestions at your own risk, however, as in some jurisdictions using privacy software can be illegal or arouse suspicions. Even though what you send is mostly hidden, you’re never totally invisible, and it can be ferreted out that you are using secure software.

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum delivers the keynote address at the 2014 Mobile World Congress, day 1. [Image Via David Ramos/Getty Images]

Privacy Vs. Data

The new WhatsApp policies highlight a debate that’s been going on basically since the internet began. Is it okay for companies (or governments) to collect user data from commercial sites? Most of the time, this type of collection is pretty harmless, and the data is only used to improve the user’s experience. However, some entities do not specify what they will do with the data in an entirely honest way.

Additionally, government agencies use warrants issued by the secret FISA court that ignore the probable cause principle in the Fourth Amendment to perform clandestine surveillance on millions of internet users. Some argue that spying on everyone to find the few who are guilty violates basic constitutional privacy rights, and the assumption that everyone is “innocent until proven guilty.”

What are your thoughts on the new WhatsApp Terms and Conditions? Do they still live up to what the company set out to do in the beginning? Is WhatsApp being dishonest?

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