Take it or leave it

11 January 2021 00:00 by Robin Gerhold

The implications of WhatsApp’s Privacy Policy which was updated on the 4th of January 2021 has caused an uproar. The updated Policy will take effect on 8 February 2021 and users have been advised that they are required to accept the updated Policy in order to continue to use WhatsApp from the 8th of February 2021.

Written by Robin Gerhold, Partner at Gerhold and van Wyk Attorneys and Conveyancers for LexisNexis South Africa.

Previous version of the Privacy Policy
On the 25th of August 2016, WhatsApp’s Privacy Policy was updated to reflect its acquisition by Facebook. The Policy explained that WhatsApp would work with Facebook to improve services and offerings; make product suggestions; and show relevant offers and advertisements. Users were given the opportunity to opt-out of having their information shared with Facebook, although many users did not opt-out.

The updated Policy
The most notable updates to the Policy concern how WhatsApp processes data; WhatsApp’s communications with businesses; and integrations with Facebook Company apps and products.

What data will be collected?
WhatsApp will collect data from its users, such as:

  1. account information, including users’ phone numbers and basic information;
  2. users’ contacts;
  3. status information;
  4. transactions and payment data;
  5. usage data;
  6. device data, such as hardware model; battery level; signal strength; browser information; mobile network; IP address; and identifiers;
  7. location data;
  8. cookies;
  9. information from businesses that users interact with on WhatsApp;
  10. information received from Facebook Company Products and third-party services.

What information will be shared with other Facebook companies?
WhatsApp may share any information with Facebook that has been identified in the Policy or any information obtained upon notice to the user.

How will the information be used?
Information may be used for a number of purposes, including:

  1. provision of services;
  2. ensuring safety and security;
  3. facilitating communication between businesses and users;
  4. providing communications about WhatsApp and Facebook services;
  5. marketing.

Will WhatsApp share users’ messages with Facebook?
WhatsApp advises that its users’ messages will remain encrypted and are therefore protected. The Policy states that WhatsApp does not retain messages in the ordinary course of providing its services to users, instead messages are stored on users’ devices, although WhatsApp does store messages under the following circumstances:

  1. undelivered messages will be stored for up to 30 days;
  2. media is stored temporarily, in order to aid efficient delivery.

Effect of the updated Policy
The updated Policy has caused global concerns regarding privacy and many of WhatsApp’s 2 billion users to flock to alternative messaging platforms.

Could this be the downfall of WhatsApp?