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WhatsApp Privacy Policy update- an explainer

Facebook campny logos for Facebook Instagram and WhatsApp

So, WhatsApp has “updated” their privacy policy. Cue massive social media outrage and confusion. As if we don’t have enough to worry about in the midst of a pandemic! There seems to be quite a lot of confusion about what this Privacy Policy means for us as users. Are those nudes you sent via WhatsApp going to be leaked? Is the cheeky comment you made to Lee about Susan’s swimming costume going to become public domain? Take a deep breath… it’s all good!

Where does Facebook fit into the picture?

Facebook owns WhatsApp (as well as Instagram!) Since their acquisition of WhatsApp and the introduction of WhatsApp for Business, Facebook as the parent company wants to make changes to WhatsApp so that it can be integrated with their other basket of businesses, such as Facebook. This requires a few changes to how your information is managed, stored and shared and it requires your agreement in having that information shared with Facebook. The big questions here are exactly what information/ data are we talking about and who is it being shared with?

Safety first

First up, not much is changing. WhatsApp and Facebook have been sharing information and you agreed to it when you signed up and consequently each time you updated the app. The difference now is that with global lobbying for transparency, the companies are expressly explaining what they do with your data and they need you to agree to it.

The good news is that your messages on WhatsApp are end-to-encrypted meaning that those messages are completely safe. There is always the risk of someone you send a WhatsApp message to taking a screenshot of that message and sharing the screenshot so don’t let your guard down entirely, but as for those nudes, WhatsApp isn’t going to leak them anytime soon 😉. Messages are deleted from WhatsApp servers as soon as they are sent. If they are undelivered, they are stored encrypted for 30 days- again the content of your messages is safe. The information WhatsApp (Facebook) wants to collect is not in your messages. Instead, it is mainly diagnostic data and other demographic info which is super helpful to marketers and business owners. More on that shortly. But there is no concern – at least yet – that private WhatsApp conversations will be harvested to use for ads or other purposes by Facebook.

One thing to keep in mind is that as an app, the developers and those working on WhatsApp need to ensure it is functioning correctly across all devices and networks and that when there are updates or problems, these can be run through as seamlessly and safely as possible. For this to happen, the developers require information to be sent to them, for example about the device you use, app version, ISP, language and time zone.

Exactly what info of mine is going where?

So, what details of mine does WhatsApp/ Facebook want to store or share? MyBroadband have put together a great summary in the table below:

A Digital Marketer’s Perspective

In the field of marketing, particularly digital marketing, we work with data. It is a vital component of the job and ensures that advertising is correctly targeted for maximum return on ad spend. This is great for consumers too because you will only see adverts relevant to you (such as your likes and interests or geographic location). There is no point seeing an advert about an event in a place you cannot get to nor is it pleasant to have your feed filled with adverts about products or services you’re not even remotely interested in. Without getting too technical, advertisers pay big money to Facebook to ensure that their adverts are shown to the right people, in the right place at the right time (all requiring data to do properly!) and at the same time this allows users a spam-free platform on which to engage.

Another aspect coming in to play here is that Facebook are trying to make work flows easier for those who use its business platforms. For example, as a business owner I have a Facebook Page, Instagram business account and WhatsApp for business. Right now I can go to one place to view the messages sent to my business via Instagram and Facebook instead of having to check two different inboxes. Facebook is aiming to do the same thing with WhatsApp business messages. The takeaway here is that WhatsApp has added new features to allow people to communicate with businesses which could be hosted by Facebook. When communicating with those businesses, the messages might be stored and managed by Facebook and so those conversations could be shared with the company in a more general sense (as in your not just sending it to a single person but a business which might have more than one person accessing an account).

In closing…

This paragraph is something I’m sure that most consumers will be interested in seeing straight from the horse’s mouth:

Business Interactions. We enable you and third parties, like businesses, to communicate and interact with each other using our services, such as Catalogs for businesses on WhatsApp through which you can browse products and services and place orders. Businesses may send you transaction, appointment, and shipping notifications; product and service updates; and marketing. For example, you may receive flight status information for upcoming travel, a receipt for something you purchased, or a notification when a delivery will be made. Messages you receive from a business could include an offer for something that might interest you. We do not want you to have a spammy experience; as with all of your messages, you can manage these communications, and we will honor the choices you make”.

We may feel aggreged at being forced to accept this new change or stop using the app but remember that in life, nothing is free. If it’s free, then you’re the currency! In this instance, your data is the currency you exchange for using a handy, secure-messaging service without unwanted advertising getting in the way!

WhatsApp users have until 8 February 2021 to accept Facebook’s updated terms and policies.

To read the full Privacy Policy click here.

Check out these links for further reading on other options should you wish to make a change away from WhatsApp:

WhatsApp vs Signal Vs Telegram

Features comparison

An Addendum for Business Owners

No platform is infallible. Ensure that you cover your bases when it comes to digital marketing and don’t have all your eggs in one basket! It is vital that you have aspects which you control entirely such as your own website. Try out different platforms and mediums and select a couple which work for you. A great start is Facebook/ Instagram and Google along with your own website. Get in touch with us if you’d like a hand getting your online presence up to scratch in 2021.

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