There’s a lot of confusion going on with WhatsApp updating their Terms of Service (TOS), and if you’re like me, most of your WhatsApp groups are having conversations about whether to migrate to other platforms like Signal or Telegram. I’ve tried to break down what the change in TOS means and put it in a way I can understand easily. If there is a nuance or technicality that is not strictly accurate, it is probably because of my attempt to over-simplify something very complex.
Based on my reading of the TOS, here’s a summary of what has changed:
According to the new TOS, if you use WhatsApp, Facebook will be free to share this info with any company that uses their advertising platform:
Your phone number: To enable advertisers to contact you with things Facebook has determined you want to buy using data gathered from the below additional data it will share with advertisers
Any transaction data that appears on WhatsApp: – Eg. purchase receipts, any EMI notification etc.
Any information from your messages: Eg. if you tell your friends you are planning a trip to Dubai, that info will be passed on to advertisers selling Dubai trips
Mobile device info: Including location data, what apps you are using in a particular location or time of day etc.
User IP address: This is for what is called ‘retargeting’ – when you have just searched for flight tickets to Mumbai, have you noticed how every website you go to has advertisements for the same? That is retargeting.
Automatically collected data and messages: This is a broad, sweeping term that covers any other information they can get from your WhatsApp, now and in the future.
If you are using Facebook, this is already happening, especially if you have the app installed.
The new TOS now says it will happen even if you have only WhatsApp without Facebook. Till now, this was not happening if you had only WhatsApp without Facebook.
Based on this, you can decide if you want to take any action on your future with WhatsApp.
The core issue here is how your information is going to be used by the Facebook advertising system to get advertisers to show you some information you might be looking for – cheap tickets to Mumbai when you are planning a trip to Mumbai, for example! For all we know there may be no immediate or noticeable difference to the experience most of us will have.