WhatsApp T&Cs and Why Regulations Can Be A Good Thing

WhatsApp T&Cs and Why Regulations Can Be A Good Thing

By Aim's data protection experts

January 2021


When WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014 there were assurances that privacy was Facebook’s number one priority. However, since 2016 WhatsApp has shared data with its parent company, although there was a onetime opt-out for data-sharing. In January 2021 it announced that there would be a change its privacy policy, effective on the 8th February, that would allow data sharing with Facebook, and that to continue using the service, users would need to accept the changes. A failure to accept would result in the deletion of the users account. Whilst messages will not be shared, all other data, including contacts, group membership, use, online status, and any payments made through the app, were subject to sharing.


Not much wiggle room there…  Well not if you’re outside the UK or EU, but within those jurisdictions the same changes do not apply. Why is this? Well the DPA 2018 and GDPR have much stricter requirements regarding the sharing of personal data and the requirement to accept blanket terms and conditions as a pre-requisite to obtaining a service. There are a few changes to the privacy policies in these regions, but data will not be shared.


What’s the impact of this decision by Facebook? Well millions of users have removed the app, preferring other providers who offer a more secure and non-data sharing service. In addition, the number of downloads of WhatsApp have decreased significantly, whereas downloads of its competitors have increased.


Is there a moral to this story, well perhaps two. First, the stricter laws in the UK and EU serve to protect users personal data, and secondly, it is clear that personal data is a commodity, and is valuable to large corporations who are able to use it to target marketing and make significant profits as a result. It’s worth remembering that Facebook’s purchase cost $19 billion, so you have to assume that the potential return is huge.


Maybe it’s time to consider the value of the data your company holds, but how? Aim’s dataBelt® can not only find, index and categorise all your data, but it can assign monetary values to that data and consequently give you a clear understanding of its hereto untapped value, although I would recommend a slightly softer approach than the one taken by Facebook.