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WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy Still Confusing You? Keep This In Mind Before Selecting Accept

By: Vishal Mathur

Last Updated: May 15, 2021, 09:10 IST

(Image: WhatsApp)

(Image: WhatsApp)

Even if you haven't accepted the WhatsApp privacy policy just yet, you'll be bombarded with reminders for a few days. In the meantime, this is what you need to know before you accept.

There is no getting around this. WhatsApp is making some pretty big changes to its privacy policy which you now have to accept, if you are to continue using the messaging app. You now have a clearer picture of how much of your data is being shared. In the new privacy policy and terms of use, which WhatsApp simply calls “update”, the Facebook-owned app details how WhatsApp’s service handles your data as well as how WhatsApp partners with the larger Facebook platform to allow integrations across multiple apps, including Instagram and Facebook Messenger. Three large buckets under which the new terms have been categorized. First is how businesses can manage their chats using Facebook tools, more information about how WhatsApp works including how your data is processed and illustrations of how your data ties in with the larger Facebook app ecosystem requirements which is called “how we work with Facebook”.

WhatsApp says that “No one will have their accounts deleted or lose functionality of WhatsApp on May 15th because of this update.” This will be applicable for all WhatsApp platform versions, including WhatsApp for Android, WhatsApp for iPhone, WhatsApp web and so on. The new Security & Privacy updates do also say that, “For the last several weeks we’ve displayed a notification in WhatsApp providing more information about the update. After giving everyone time to review, we’re continuing to remind those who haven’t had the chance to do so to review and accept. After a period of several weeks, the reminder people receive will eventually become persistent.” And we go deeper into the meaning of the changes and more vivid illustrations that the new WhatsApp “update” is bringing to your phone and indeed your interaction with the Facebook platform that also includes Instagram and Messenger.

WhatsApp says that they collect user information to be able to provide services and customize the experience for the user. Among the information that you share with WhatsApp are your mobile phone number and your profile name to create and run a WhatsApp account. WhatsApp insists that they do not retain your messages and says that messages that you send and receive aren’t typically stored on their servers. “Once your messages are delivered, they are deleted from our servers.” However, there are scenarios where your messages may stay on WhatsApp servers temporarily—that is if a message remains undelivered for a certain period of time up to a maximum of 30 days in the encrypted form, after which it is deleted as well as media forwards that are temporarily stored in encrypted form to improve the efficiency of additional forwards.

WhatsApp makes it clear that they are collecting your location information at all times. For starters, the customary pleasantries greet you in the Location Information section of the updated privacy policy. They say that you give access to your precise location when you use any location-based services on the app, such as sharing your location with someone on the app. This is where things get interesting. “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,” is the very clear message.

For Businesses On WhatsApp, the Facebook owned instant messenger says that businesses on the platform can share your information with third-party service providers. And that includes Facebook—this can include communications to send, store, read, manage and process them for business.

WhatsApp makes it clear that they do share information with other Facebook companies. “We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings, including the Facebook Company Products,” say the updated terms of service. Some of the listed utilities for this data sharing are believed to help in improving infrastructure and delivery systems, understanding how a user uses the platforms differently and also promote data safety and security across the board. Mind you, this also means that your data will be used to serve personalized suggestions as well as advertisements targeted at you and your usage trends across a variety of platforms. The WhatsApp updated terms say this is for “improving their services and your experiences using them, such as making suggestions for you (for example, of friends or group connections, or of interesting content), personalizing features and content, helping you complete purchases and transactions, and showing relevant offers and ads across the Facebook Company Products.”

If you are wondering what Facebook Company Products mean, we’ll let Facebook explain it anyway—" Facebook Products include Facebook (including the Facebook mobile app and in-app browser), Messenger, Instagram (including apps such as Boomerang), Portal-branded devices, Oculus Products (when using a Facebook account), Facebook Shops, Spark AR Studio, Audience Network, NPE Team apps and any other features, apps, technologies, software, products or services offered by Facebook Inc.”

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    WhatsApp says that the “continued use of our Services confirms your acceptance of our Terms, as amended”. To be fair, the updated privacy policy and terms of service don’t throw up any shocking new revelations. It is just that there is now greater clarity on certain aspects of how WhatsApp, Facebook as well as other third party services access, manage and use your data. But it is a bit surprising that the privacy section doesn’t go into further detail about the exact specifics of data collection and use, but that must be for another amendment to the terms of use and privacy policy.

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