Big Brother Watch – WhatsApp and Facebook Data Sharing – Unanswered Questions

31st August 2016 / United Kingdom

By Big Brother Watch – The recent news that WhatsApp will be sharing user information with Facebook has been greeted with concern by both privacy groups and the media.

Having long campaigned for companies to be open about their data sharing practices, it would be churlish of us to not acknowledge that WhatsApp have made efforts to do so, signalling to all through a well-publicised blog post their main intentions and how to opt out the data sharing.

However there are still clear issues with WhatsApp’s new privacy policy. When first shown the new terms and conditions, a user is presented with a large “Agree” option while the opt out requires clicking through to read more before unchecking a box. The option to opt in, rather than to opt out of the data sharing service would have been preferable.

There is unfortunately still a lack of clarity in the T&Cs about what data WhatsApp will be sharing with Facebook.

While the user can opt out from Facebook receiving their phone number from the user themselves, does that prevent a friend from sharing their WhatsApp contacts with Facebook?

It is also unclear as to why the option to not share account info is limited to the next thirty days, raising concerns that future users will not even have the option to opt out.

Finally, while WhatsApp has been very keen to stress that their app will not feature third party banner ads, they have still opened users up to being targeted by ads within the app, presumably from businesses that people have been using WhatsApp to communicate with. It isn’t yet clear whether users will be able to opt out of this feature or how intrusive they will be.

WhatsApp have made some efforts to provide users with a choice in their new business model. We would urge them to go further and in every instance say clearly and unambiguously exactly what data is being shared and why. They are halfway there but the lack of detail and honesty about users’ telephone numbers remains a concern. For WhatsApp to set a real example in how best to protect user privacy, they ought to allow people to choose whether they want to opt in to each individual change. Only then will they really be on the right path to creating real trust and transparency with their users.

From the TruePublica Editor – How to disable sharing

Opting out of WhatsApp’s new terms, controversial as they are, doesn’t actually stop it sharing information with Facebook. Some key information will still be sent to Facebook, and there is nothing users can do to stop it.

It also doesn’t change the other controversial part of the terms. That is an update that allows WhatsApp to show ads to its users – it has promised that those ads won’t be intrusive, but hasn’t actually revealed what.

SafeSubcribe/Instant Unsubscribe - One Email, Every Sunday Morning - So You Miss Nothing - That's It

The opt out is supposedly available when users are ‘invited’ to read the new privacy policy and terms. When the new terms and conditions appear as you launch the app. If prompted, press the arrow labelled “Read more about the key updates to our Terms and Privacy Policy.”

This lets you trawl through the minutiae of the changes, however, it also loads a toggle that lets users remove or turn off their phone number. It comes with an ominous warning – as if you’ll really lose out in future, but don’t be put off.

According to WhatsApp, this is also available within the app settings for 30 days after you accept the new privacy policy and terms – in case you change your mind. This has not happened on my mobile phone.

Alternatively, launch WhatsApp, go to Settings, then Account and go to Share My Account Info – turn off the ‘Share Info or Share Details‘ if that option is available, but do it quickly as there is confusion as to whether WhatsApp are limiting this option to a certain amount of time.

Your account information and app usage won’t be shared with Facebook anymore, so they say. Though, it doesn’t say whether it has already shared your information or whether, if shared, that information will be changed according to your wishes.

At a time when reporting the truth is critical, your support is essential in protecting it.
Find out how

The European Financial Review

European financial review Logo

The European Financial Review is the leading financial intelligence magazine read widely by financial experts and the wider business community.