Things change. In 2012 WhatsApp said that they didn’t sell ads because ads were bad. They even quoted Tyler Durden from Fight Club to support that. That was then. This is now, and now they’re owned by Facebook, a company that does nothing but sell ads.
Facebook has just said WhatsApp is going to sell ads. So they will.
To do so they, like so many others, will start to slurp user data, including phone numbers. The data will be sent to Facebook, to give businesses a way to send ads to the users. In doing so, they prove once again that the old saying is true: if you’re not paying for a service, you’re the product.
Because, in 2012 WhatsApp believed that “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need”, and now they have changed their mind to think that by giving the users’ phone numbers and other data to Facebook, businesses will be able to communicate with the users to provide enhanced experiences. Or whatever the corporate speak is today.
All this was revealed when the company posted a blog post about a new privacy agreement earlier.
WhatsApp has a billion users across the world. It is a service that allows its users to talk to each other through heavily encrypted connections. For instance, it was alleged that the terrorists who did the attacks in France used WhatsApp to communicate with each other. That lead the Germans and the French to push the European Commission to force the company to use weaker encryption.
A twist to the tale is that in 2011, before Facebook bought WhatsApp, it and the Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement in a court case that compels Facebook to stop slurping data without user’s consent.
The FTC ordered that Facebook had to get clear and unambiguous consent from the users before any changes were made to its privacy policies, and to keep the company on its toes, the FTC put them on a twenty year watch list. Independent private auditors will make periodic evaluations about those policies too.