WhatsApp to move ahead with controversial privacy policy despite outcry

The Facebook-owned company has delayed the launch of new policy to May

WhatsApp will go ahead with the launch of its controversial privacy policy update but will “clear up any confusion” and let users read the new updates “at their own pace”.

The Facebook-owned company said, in the coming weeks, it will display a banner in the app providing additional information about the impending privacy features.

The new privacy updates led to a public outcry and mass exodus of the platform’s new as well as existing users to competitors such as Signal and Telegram.

WhatsApp came under fire as users were worried the platform would share their confidential chats and business messages with parent company Facebook. It also led to legal challenges in India and regulatory probes.

Earlier the company had asked the users to agree to the new policy by February 8 or their accounts will be suspended, but later it pushed the deadline to May 15.

"We have included more information to try and address concerns we are hearing ... eventually, we will start reminding people to review and accept these updates to keep using WhatsApp," the company said in a latest statement.

One competing service, Signal, received an influx of 7.5 million new users in the first three weeks of January. Telegram amassed 25 million in only three days last month. Even ICQ, the pioneering but largely forgotten messaging service from the 1990s, experienced a resurgence as people sought alternatives.

“We have seen some of our competitors try to get away with claiming they can’t see people’s messages - if an app doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption by default that means they can read your messages,” WhatsApp said.

The company said it is trying to be “thoughtful” and will continue to develop new ways of meeting consumer responsibilities “with less information, not more”.

“We believe people are looking for apps to be both reliable and safe, even if that requires WhatsApp having some limited data,” it added.

WhatsApp was founded in 2009 and sold to Facebook for $19 billion in 2014.

The messaging platform has more than two billion users, compared with 1.5 billion in 2018. Nearly 175 million of WhatsApp's users interact with a business on the app every day, according to the company's chief operating officer, Matt Idema.

“We have reflected on what we could have done better here … we want everyone to know our history of defending end-to-end encryption and trust we are committed to protecting people’s privacy and security,” it added.

WhatsApp has also defended the limited access of its parent company Facebook into some of the users’ data.

“Some shopping features [on WhatsApp] involve Facebook so that businesses can manage their inventory across apps. We display more information directly in WhatsApp so people can choose if they want to engage with businesses, or not,” the company said.

In December, it launched a feature WhatsApp Cart that allows its users to shop through the messaging platform and enables merchants to track orders and inquiries.

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