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How you can stop WhatsApp from sharing your phone number with Facebook

tech Updated: Aug 26, 2016 20:53 IST
Anirban Ghoshal
Anirban Ghoshal
Hindustan Times
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The companies say this will help Facebook send advertising towards consumer with more precision, while keeping WhatsApp free of ads. It will also “improve your Facebook ads and products experiences,” they said, that it will give businesses a new avenue to reach potential customers. (WhatsApp)

About two years ago, when Facebook acquired WhatsApp for an eye-popping $19 billion, the world’s most popular messaging app’s CEO, Jan Koum, said “nothing would change” in its privacy policy and handling of user data. “There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product,” Koum said.

Times change. And, it seems, so do privacy policies.

WhatsApp updated its policy from Friday, now it wants to share users’ phone numbers with Facebook.

The companies say this will help Facebook send advertising towards consumer with more precision, while keeping WhatsApp free of ads. It will also “improve your Facebook ads and products experiences,” they said, that it will give businesses a new avenue to reach potential customers.

WhatsApp described situations where banks and airlines will use your phone number to get in touch about fraudulent payments or delayed flights. It said nothing users share on WhatsApp -- messages, photos, account information -- will be shared on Facebook or any of its family of apps for others to see. All things on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted so neither Facebook nor WhatsApp can see the messages.

According to WhatsApp, the new policy will share the registered phone number and the last time the user had used the service. (HT Photo)

So, why the fuss? Why all the trouble of changing the privacy policies and talk about sharing personal data? After all, privacy has become an increasingly touchy subject and no company can dilute it without incurring users’ ire.

According to WhatsApp, the new policy will share the registered phone number and the last time the user had used the service. “WhatsApp is part of the Facebook family of companies, and sharing some information allows us to coordinate more and improve experiences across our services and those of Facebook and the Facebook family. For example, we will be able to more accurately count unique users, help fight spam and abuse better and if you are a Facebook user, you might see better friend suggestions and more relevant ads on Facebook.”

Do we believe them? Not readily.

Facebook has to make money, a job at which it is very good. Targeted advertisements is another way of increasing revenues by understanding consumers. If WhatsApp remains free to use and free of advertisement, the company needs to think of ways to make money.

(HT Photo)

But are they holding a gun to your head? It would seem so at first, as the notification gives you 30 days to accept the conditions. However, if you read the new terms and conditions, which not many internet users do before they click agree, you will find that there is a way to not put your phone number where a legion of hungry brands could get it.

Rather than clicking “agree”, press the smaller “read more” option below, and uncheck the box that reads “Share my WhatsApp account information with Facebook...”

And don’t worry if you have already accepted the new terms -- you still have 30 days to opt out. Just head to the app’s settings menu, and press the account tab. From there, you can uncheck the box reading “Share my account info” to stop providing Facebook with your user data.