WhatsApp has been Sharing User-data with Facebook Since 2016

Last week WhatsApp updated its terms of use and privacy policy. Unexpectedly, A pop-up notified the users that as of February 8, the privacy policy of WhatsApp will change and users have to accept it if they want to continue using WhatsApp services.
Multiple media outlets and common WhatsApp users mistakenly assumed that this meant WhatsApp had finally decided to share user data with its parent company Facebook. In reality, WhatsApp has already been sharing user data with Facebook since 2016.
WhatsApp is the world’s most popular cross-platform instant messaging app. More than 2 billion people use WhatsApp in over 180 countries. In 2014, Facebook acquired WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion, the largest sum ever paid to acquire a single app.
In August 2016, WhatsApp announced a major privacy policy update when it announced to share user information and meta-data with Facebook. Back then, WhatsApp provided its users with the option to opt-out of this data sharing within 30 days of the announcement. The majority of the users did not even notice the change and very few had the awareness to opt-out of data sharing back then.
This means that since August 2016, for the majority of users WhatsApp is already sharing with Facebook data of majority of users with Facebook including account registration information (such as phone number), transaction data, service-related information, information on how users interact with others (including businesses), mobile device information, and IP address among others.
It was common for WhatsApp users to find friend suggestions on Facebook for the person whose number they saved on their phone. The reason was that WhatsApp was sharing the phone number of users with Facebook, which was then using it for finding the profile of that user on Facebook and showing it up in friend suggestions.
After the latest change in WhatsApp’s privacy policy, users around the world are criticizing the company and contemplating switching to safer alternatives such as Signal and Telegram. However, WhatsApp has maintained that the latest change in privacy policy does not affect the existing practice, implemented in August 2016, of data sharing with Facebook.
While WhatsApp user’s meta-data is shared with Facebook the content of the messages is still secured with end to end encryption. Messages, photos, and other content sent and received by the users can not even access by WhatsApp and Facebook.
Still, certain tech experts question the assertion that the content of WhatsApp messages is secure. Evan Greer, deputy director of the digital rights group Fight for the Future, said that he does not trust any product made by Facebook because their business model is surveillance.
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