New terms await WhatsApp Messenger: What lies ahead after the 15th of May 2021?

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WhatsApp Messenger is currently facing a backlash since recently they changed their terms and privacy policy. The new terms made it seem as the company is giving an ultimatum to its users as, by the 8th of February 2021, they had to agree to the new terms or risk losing access to their conversations on the platform. 

This sparked a major controversy and an outrage over the new terms adapted – features such as higher integration with the other apps owned by Facebook like Instagram, Messenger, and others. When answering the critics, WhatsApp delayed the updates.

Until the 15th of May 2021, everybody will have more time to review and understand what the new terms mean regarding the user’s security and privacy.  

To make the issue clearer, the communications director of WhatsApp, Sravanthi Dev, is trying to assure the users that the new terms are not a cause for alarm.

So what’s the meaning behind all of this?

As Sravanthi explained, the new terms are applied to message exchanges between businesses and consumers. WhatsApp is known for its enormous role in economic digitalization, and these new terms serve as a further step in the direction of a centralized business ecosystem. WhatsApp doesn’t make any money from the products that are aimed at consumers when it comes to profit. It’s the WhatsApp business API where the company’s profit is at.

“In this instance with this privacy policy, it only deals with messaging that is exchanged between a consumer and a WhatsApp API account.”

The communications director of WhatsApp made it clear that these new terms of privacy policy affect only accounts that belong to WhatsApp API, which makes it possible for users to control everything they want to share over this platform. Additionally, these new terms provide users with a feature that makes it possible to block, ignore, or communicate with these businesses.

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It is expected that this increase of information that is being shared by these companies, managed by Facebook, will be used to diagnose problems or boost performance, in an effort to have better service. The director informed that the amount of data that WhatsApp collects is more than Signal, but only small amounts of data are collected when it comes to users. Sravanthi explained that the only thing that your data will be used for is cross-platform business features.

“In the WhatsApp business app, you have the ability to create catalogues. Businesses have the ability to create shops on Facebook, on Instagram, and they can link those shops on their WhatsApp profiles so that you as a customer can go there, connect items, and ultimately purchase them.

When we talk about information that is shared, it’s really specific to those experiences—to improve the experience for customers and the business.”

Is it true that WhatsApp will still display ads?

The communications manager assures its users that there won’t be any ads shown by WhatsApp, as the app is not in the business of ads. The company wants to generate profits via its business API product.

“The DNA of WhatsApp and the reason why we’ve been so successful is we provide a really simple app that’s reliable, and secure, and people feel safe. We remain committed to that, and we’re learning.”

According to Sravanthi, these new terms make it possible for Facebook to connect the WhatsApp account between the business and the customer, without them having access to what information is being exchanged, as end-to-end encryption is still very much the standard security method to protect data and messages that are exchanged by using the app. 

This information still doesn’t reassure users because of the fact that WhatsApp collects way more information than its competitors, which we mentioned above. 

WhatsApp’s communications director acknowledges this fact, but he says that private data remains so regardless of circumstances. Users are not comfortable with this, as they worry that the data that is being collected will somehow be used to show ads, or personalized recommendations, among other issues. Nevertheless, this doesn’t appear to be true:

“All Facebook is able to do is connect the WhatsApp account between the customer and the business together. The new terms allow us to be able to provide those types of services to ease the communications between businesses and customers. But it does not mean Facebook has the ability to take that data and do other things with it.”

What will happen if users don’t accept these terms? 

The communications director and WhatsApp assured that users’ accounts would not be deleted even if they don’t accept these new terms. They will continue to receive calls, messages, and notifications, but what they will have problems with, is the non-usage of the full WhatsApp functionality – including making calls, reading messages, among other things.

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WhatsApp users have the freedom to accept these new terms even after the deadline, but they risk degrading their app’s performance by doing so.

Sravanthi further explains that users will have complete control of who they interact with. 

“They are in complete control of the messages that they send, and who they interact with on WhatsApp. You can decide whether you want to message a business. You have to initiate that conversation. And you can decide when you want to end that conversation.”

Three things to keep in mind

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when talking about these new features. First of all, according to Sravanthi, you won’t be seeing any ads within the app. Your messages will still be end-to-end encrypted so that nobody can view the content and the data that is being exchanged. Facebook will also use this method of encryption.

In actual fact, the app will share the same open-source protocol of encryption as Signal, according to Sravanthi. In the end, you can rest assured that the data that you share will remain private to you.

As we were able to understand, the private data that is being collected by WhatsApp business API accounts, shouldn’t change anything for you if you choose not to use these types of accounts.

However, we still don’t know what effect these new terms will truly have. Meanwhile, we can refer to the information provided to us by the WhatsApp team.