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WhatsApp updates terms of service and privacy policy: Why you need to accept it

WhatsApp has officially updated its terms of service and privacy policy and given users till February 8, 2021 to accept the same to continue using the messaging platform. For those who do not accept the new terms, there is the option to delete their accounts, which is a standard practice in the industry.

So what are the key changes in the new privacy policy and terms of service for WhatsApp? According to the message, the new updates include more information about WhatsApp’s service and how it processes user data. Further, there are updates on how businesses use Facebook hosted services to store and manage their WhatsApp chats. The new privacy policy also looks at how WhatsApp partners with Facebook to offer integrations across the Facebook Company.

Users in India would have noticed the new policy popup when they logged into the messaging app for the first time today. The WhatsApp  message for users notes at the end, “By tapping AGREE, you accept the new terms and privacy policy, which take effect on February 8, 2021. After this date, you’ll need to accept these updates to continue using WhatsApp. You can also visit the Help Center if you would prefer to delete your account and would like more information.”

The new privacy policy goes into a lot more detail on how WhatsApp shares information with Facebook, which was not there in the earlier version, at least in this new expanded form.

Regarding third-party service providers, WhatsApp’s privacy policy now mentions “other Facebook Companies” and how they work with them to support “services, such as to provide technical infrastructure, delivery and other systems; market our Services; conduct surveys and research for us; protect the safety, security and integrity of users and others; and assist with customer service.”

WhatsApp makes it clear that it is sharing information with “third-party service providers and other Facebook Companies in this capacity…”

It also expands on using third-party services integrated inside WhatsApp, and once again other Facebook products find a mention. The earlier policy just mentioned iCloud or Google Drive, which are commonly used by many to backup and save their messages.

The new part in this section mentions that when users rely on “a third-party service or another Facebook Company Product linked through our Services, such as when you use the in-app player to play content from a third-party platform,” some information about them is shared with Facebook or the third-party serviceThis includes IP address, the fact that one is a WhatsApp user, according to the new policy.

The privacy policy had earlier mentioned that WhatsApp would receive information from the Facebook Group of companies, and that they would also share information with them, though it had noted, “your WhatsApp messages will not be shared onto Facebook for others to see. In fact, Facebook will not use your WhatsApp messages for any purpose other than to assist us in operating and providing our Services.”  This particular bit is no longer in the privacy policy.

WhatsApp does elaborate on how the information exchange with Facebook will be utilised. This includes:

  • helping improve infrastructure and delivery systems,
  • understanding how WhatsApp’s Services or theirs (Facebook and other Facebook companies) are used;
  • promoting safety, security and integrity across the Facebook Company Products, e.g., securing systems and fighting spam, threats, abuse, or infringement activities;
  • improving Facebook’s services and users experiences around them, such as making suggestions for users (for example, of friends or group connections, or of interesting content), personalizing features and content, helping users complete purchases and transactions, and showing relevant offers and ads across the Facebook Company Products;
  • providing integrations which enable users to connect their WhatsApp experiences with other Facebook Company Products. One example given is allowing users to connect their Facebook Pay account to pay for things on WhatsApp or enabling users to chat with with friends on other Facebook Company Products, such as Portal, by connecting the WhatsApp account.

WhatsApp has expanded on what happens when you delete your account, adding that deleting an account will not automatically result in all information being deleted and some of it might be stored for a longer time. It further adds, “Please remember that when you delete your account, it does not affect your information related to the groups you created or the information other users have relating to you, such as their copy of the messages you sent them.” 

The new privacy policy also expands on global operations and data transfer, including how some information is shared “internally within the Facebook Companies and externally with our partners and service providers, and with those with whom you communicate around the world, in accordance with this Privacy Policy.” This is not mentioned in the earlier privacy policy’s section on Global Operations. WhatsApp also makes it clear that it uses Facebook’s global infrastructure and data centers, including in the United State for storing data.

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