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WhatsApp: Threat To User Privacy Started In 2016 – Report

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WhatsApp’s updated terms of use and privacy policy which set tongues wagging last week may just have awoken users to a practice that dates back five years.

Many users expressed misgivings about how much data the messaging app would exchange with its parent company, Facebook, after the former gave users until February 8 to accept the updated policy, failing which they may not be able to access the messaging app.

As of 2016, users could opt-out of sharing data with Facebook. However, the updated policy has expunged the passage granting such privilege.

Many users raised eyebrows because they believed that WhatsApp was trying to compel them to allow it to share their data with Facebook without giving them an option of refusal.

However, Wired reported, the pop-up notification informing users about the updated policy actually pointed to how WhatsApp shared information with Facebook since 2016, with majority of the app’s 2 billion users already in.

It said that this user information and metadata sharing with Facebook began in August 2016 when WhatsApp launched a major privacy policy update, two years after its acquisition by the former.

The only difference at the time was that existing users had a 30-day period to opt-out of some of the sharing.

WhatsApp continued to honour the choices of the users that opted out at the time, Wired reported, but those that did not and others that joined the app after that had their data shared with Facebook.

It must however be noted that end-to-end encryption, which prevents WhatsApp or even Facebook from reading messages shared between users, is unaffected in all of this.

That said, data available for WhatsApp to share with Facebook include account information like phone number, logs of how long and how often a user is on WhatsApp, information about how a user interacts with other users, device identifiers, and other device details like IP address, operating system, browser details, battery health information, app version, mobile network, language and time zone. Transaction and payment data, cookies, and location information are also included.

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