The announcement reads in part:
“We’re also updating these documents to make clear that we’ve rolled out end-to-end encryption. When you and the people you message are using the latest version of WhatsApp, your messages are encrypted by default, which means you’re the only people who can read them. Even as we coordinate more with Facebook in the months ahead, your encrypted messages stay private and no one else can read them. Not WhatsApp, not Facebook, nor anyone else. We won’t post or share your WhatsApp number with others, including on Facebook, and we still won’t sell, share, or give your phone number to advertisers.
But by coordinating more with Facebook, we’ll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp. And by connecting your phone number with Facebook’s systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you’ve never heard of. You can learn more, including how to control the use of your data, here.”
This new policy is a huge change for a service that has typically prided itself on championing user privacy, including completing a rollout of end-to-end encryption across its entire service earlier this year, and continuing to fight requests from authorities to hand over user data.
But once WhatsApp agreed to be acquired by data-mining social network giant Facebook, back in February 2014, the writing was arguably on the wall for any pro-privacy stance.
Facebook is in the business of monetizing usage via interest-based advertising fed by harvesting the personal data of its users. WhatsApp’s original business model, of charging users a small yearly subscription fee for an ad-free messaging service, was discontinued after Facebook took over ownership of the service.
There is an option to opt out of some of the data sharing (specifically for ad and product purposes). Opting out of the data-sharing entirely does not seem to be possible, but WhatsApp is offering a partial opt out — specifically for Facebook ad targeting and product-related purposes.
However, it notes that data will still be shared “for other purposes such as improving infrastructure and delivery systems, understanding how our services or theirs are used, securing systems, and fighting spam, abuse, or infringement activities”.
So there is no way to totally opt out, short of short of stopping using WhatsApp.
How to opt out of sharing data for Facebook ad targeting
If you are an existing WhatsApp user, you can choose not to share your account information with Facebook to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences.
There are two ways to do this:
You will see a control at the bottom of the screen. If you do not want your account information shared with Facebook to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences, you can uncheck the box or toggle the control.
The Facebook family of companies will still receive and use your information for other purposes such as improving infrastructure and delivery systems, understanding how whatsapp services or theirs are used, securing systems, and fighting spam, abuse, or infringement activities.