What is the new privacy policy of WhatsApp?

On 4 January 2021, WhatsApp updated its privacy policy and users are being asked to assent to the new privacy policy till 8 February 2021.
Created On: Jan 11, 2021 20:21 IST
Modified On: Jan 11, 2021 21:32 IST
Privacy Policies of WhatsApp
Privacy Policies of WhatsApp

On 4 January 2021, WhatsApp updated its privacy policy and users are being asked to assent to the new privacy policy. Users can choose to skip it till 8 February 2021, however, after the said date they won't be able to use WhatsApp unless they accept the new privacy policy.  

The new privacy policy does not change the end-to-end encryption feature of WhatsApp. This means no one can read your messages except the recipient, not even the WhatsApp. 

As per a statement released by WhatsApp, "The update does not change WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices with Facebook and does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family… WhatsApp remains deeply committed to protecting people’s privacy."

What data will be shared by WhatsApp?

As part of the Facebook Companies, WhatsApp is already sharing data to Facebook to operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market its services. As of now, only the users in the European Union can opt-out of data sharing with Facebook. 

WhatsApp shares certain information with Facebook. These are-- account registration information (phone number), transaction data of its payment services, service-related information, information on how you interact with others (including businesses), mobile device information, and IP address. 

What information is collected by WhatsApp from the users?

Users need to agree to certain terms and conditions when they install, access and use the services provided by the WhatsApp. The information collected by WhatsApp from the users are as follows:

1- Account Information: WhatsApp collects basic information such as phone number and profile name. Without providing this basic information, WhatsApp services cannot be used. Users can also add a profile picture and about information to their accounts.

2- Messages: WhatsApp messages are stored on the mobile devices of the users and not on WhatsApp servers. Once a message is delivered, it is deleted from WhatsApp servers. However, messages can be stored by WhatsApp subject to below-mentioned circumstances:

(a) Undelivered Messages: If a message is not delivered immediately (for instance, the recipient is offline) it is stored in encrypted form on WhatsApp servers for up to 30 days. If a message is still undelivered after 30 days, WhatsApp deletes it from its servers.   

(b) Media Forwarding: When a media is forwarded within a message, it is stored on the servers of WhatsApp to aid in the more efficient delivery of additional forwards.

WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption for its services. This means that your messages are encrypted to protect against WhatsApp and third parties from reading them.

3- Connections: Users can use 'contact upload' feature and grant access to the device's address book to WhatsApp. This allows the app to identify users from their device’s address book so as to easily connect with them. 

4- Status: Users can post a status update on WhatsApp. 

5- Transactions and Payments Data: If you are using WhatsApp Payments services, you need to provide additional information including payment account and transaction information.

6- Customer Support and Other Communications: If you ever contact WhatsApp, you may need to provide information related to your use of our Services, including copies of your messages, any other information you deem helpful, and how to contact you (e.g., an email address).

What information is automatically collected by WhatsApp from the users?

1- Usage and Log information: WhatsApp collects information about the activity of its users. This includes how a user uses WhatsApp services, its settings, interaction with others, time, frequency, and so forth. It also includes information about the features such as messaging, calling, status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features, profile photo, "about" information, last seen and when a user last updated "about" information.   

2- Device and Connection Information: Connection and device-specific information are collected when someone installs, access or use the services of WhatsApp. This includes information such as hardware model, operating system information, battery level, signal strength, app version, browser information, mobile network, connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP), language and time zone, IP address, device operations information, and identifiers. 

3- Location Information: If you permit, WhatsApp uses your location information when you choose to use location-related features-- when you share your location to any of your contacts, view locations nearby or locations others have shared with you. Even if you do not use WhatsApp's location-related features, it uses your IP address and other information like phone number area code to estimate your general location (e.g., city and country). Location information is also used by WhatsApp for diagnostics and troubleshooting purposes.

4- Cookies: WhatsApp uses cookies for a smooth experience on its web-based services, help a user understand how WhatsApp services are used and customize them. WhatsApp also uses cookies to get a better understanding of its most popular Help Center articles. It also remembers choices such as language preferences to provide a safer experience, and otherwise to customize its services for the users with the help of cookies. 

Third-Party Information

1- Information others provide about you to WhatsApp. These are phone number, name, and other information (like information from their mobile address book). Any user can capture screenshots of your WhatsApp chats or make recordings of your calls with them and send them to WhatsApp or anyone else, or post them on another platform.

2- Users can report each other on WhatsApp. Users can report WhatsApp your messages or interactions with them in cases such as possible violations of Terms and Conditions. When a report is made, information on both the reporting user and the reported user is collected by WhatsApp.

3- Businesses you interact with may provide information about their interactions with you to WhatsApp. Thus, while interacting with a business on WhatsApp, remember that the content shared by you may be visible to several people in that business.

4- WhatsApp works with third-party service providers to operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market its services. These companies may share information about you subject to certain circumstances with WhatsApp.

How WhatsApp processes the information?

1- The information which the WhatsApp has is used to operate and provide its services such as providing customer support; completing purchases and so on. 

2- WhatsApp also uses the information to have a better understanding of how people use their services and how these services can be improved.

3- WhatsApp uses the information to verify accounts and activity, contain harmful conduct, great user experience, and to promote safety, security and integrity on and off WhatsApp. 

4- WhatsApp uses the information it has to communicate with its users about its services, terms, policies and other updates. 

Myths and Facts related to the new privacy policy of WhatsApp

Myth: With the introduction of the new Privacy Policy, WhatsApp will share my messages with Facebook.

Fact: As per WhatsApp, "The update does not change WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices with Facebook and does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family… WhatsApp remains deeply committed to protecting people’s privacy."

This means that your messages, audio and video calls, media and document will remain end-to-end encrypted and cannot be accessed by WhatsApp or any other third party such as Facebook. 

Myth: Facebook can access my location via WhatsApp. 

Fact: No, Facebook cannot access your location via WhatsApp as it is protected between the sender and the recipient. However, it uses your IP address and other information like phone number area code to estimate your general location, for instance, city and country.

Myth: Will ads be shown on WhatsApp?

Fact: At least yet, WhatsApp will continue to remain an ad-free messaging service. According to WhatsApp, "We still do not allow third-party banner ads on our Services. We have no intention to introduce them, but if we ever do, we will update this Privacy Policy."

Myth: Will WhatsApp store my messages?

Fact: No, WhatsApp will not store your messages. WhatsApp messages are only stored on the mobile devices of the users and not on WhatsApp servers. Once a message is delivered, it is deleted from WhatsApp servers. However, messages can be stored by WhatsApp subject to above-mentioned circumstances such as undelivered messages and media forwarding. 

What happens when you delete your WhatsApp account?

When you delete your WhatsApp account, your undelivered messages and any other information that WhatsApp no longer needs to operate and provide its services will be deleted from its servers. Deleting your account will delete your account info, profile photo, delete you from all WhatsApp groups, and delete your WhatsApp message history. However, if you only delete WhatsApp from your device without using the in-app delete my account feature, your information will be stored with WhatsApp for a longer period. 

At least yet, the messages on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted and cannot be read even by WhatsApp. However, it will share user data as mentioned above with other Facebook-owned and third-party apps to make suggestions for the users, personalise features and content, help users in completing purchases and transactions, and show relevant offers and ads across the Facebook Company Products. 

Source: WhatsApp

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