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.
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.
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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