WhatsApp says that the change will allow companies to message directly users who at present only receive alerts through text message. It is the first time that the policy has changed since the $22billion acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook in 2014, and also the first time that WhatsApp has granted its umbrella company access to any of its user data.
The new policy permits the Facebook app to use the phone number a user gives to WhatsApp to target advertisements, though WhatsApp says it would not be banner adverts in messages. Facebook will also use the phone number to suggest friends.
We want to explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you too, while still giving you an experience without third-party banner ads and spam,’ said a WhatsApp spokesperson in a blog post.
The spokesperson added: ‘Even as we co-ordinate 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.’
Jan Koum, WhatsApp’s co-founder and chief executive, said that privacy protection is one of the app’s principal values, and cited his childhood in the Soviet Union as a contributing factor for this.