With the introduction of end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp has became the messaging app of choice for privacy-conscious users. There were some warning bells sounded when FaceBook acquired WhatsApp back in 2014, and now these bells are ringing louder than ever.
Julian Assange of Wikileaks and Ecuadorian embassy fame once labelled Facebook as “…the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented“, and with the launch of the new privacy (sic) policy for stablemate WhatsApp, the onward march of Facebook’s data grab continues, as the messaging app will now, by default, share some data with Facebook.
How to opt out
You can choose not to share your account information with Facebook for targeting purposes. There are two ways to do this:
1. On WhatsApp, don’t click Agree when it asks you to confirm you are happy with the change of terms. Instead, click to read more. You should then see a check box or control button at the bottom of the screen which says “Share my WhatsApp account information with Facebook to improve my Facebook ads and product experiences…”. Uncheck this.
2. If you have already agreed to the updated terms, you can go to to Settings > Account > Share my account info in the app. Then uncheck the box or toggle the control. But be quick: WhatsApp says you only have until 25th September to make this choice after agreeing to the new terms.
However, the company 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.”
For those of you who are thinking to opt out of the data-sharing entirely: sorry, but there’s no possible way to opt totally out – except to stop using WhatsApp. Instead, consider using another secure apps, like Signal from the totally wonderful Open Whisper Systems.
See here for an excellent article by security specialists Sophos covering this issue in depth.