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WhatsApp Ordered to Stop Sharing User Data in UK

In April of this year popular international messaging app WhatsApp began collecting and sharing user data with Facebook. The measure, WhatsApp has said, was (among other things) an attempt to “better fight spam,” in the app - this despite WhatsApp’s phone number authentication requirement that is already difficult to circumvent.

The prospect of WhatsApp sharing and storing user data from Facebook, however, is alarming to some, considering the app is only used for exchanging messages, photos, videos, and making voice calls.

WhatsApp assures its users that their messages are encrypted, and that phone number’s will not be visible to anyone on Facebook. But the company’s August announcement goes on to say that user phone numbers will however, be used to offer additional friend suggestions on Facebook.

On WhatsApp’s end, the data it receives from Facebook will reportedly be used toward a long term goal of implementing new avenues of communication between businesses and personal user accounts. New features to this end were planned on being introduced into the app as part of its testing right around now, but nothing of the sort has yet to surface in any of the app’s updates.

Various regions outside the US have asked WhatsApp to stop sharing user data from Facebook, including the UK, India, and Germany. A Delhi High Court in India even ordered WhatsApp to delete already existing user data from those who have opted out of the new privacy policy, which outlines its data sharing with Facebook. The app, however, does not appear to have complied with the court ordered deadline of September 25th to delete such data. WhatsApp claimed at the time, that continued storage of existing user data from Facebook has “no impact on the planned policy and terms of service updates.”

In late September, however, WhatsApp issued a new statement saying it will comply with the court order in proceeding with their privacy policy and terms updates. No further details have been released since then.

Unfortunately, there is no longer a way to opt out of information sharing services completely, and those who’d like to opt out of partial information sharing (that which is used, mainly, to improve targeted advertising on Facebook) can only do so if they are downloading the app for the first time.

How to Opt Out of Data Sharing

If you’d like to opt out of data sharing and have already downloaded WhatsApp, simply uninstall the app from your phone and then reinstall it. You will be asked after app installation to agree to WhatsApp’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Uncheck the box at the bottom of the screen next to “Share my WhatsApp account information with Facebook….”

When the updated privacy policy first rolled out several months back, users also had the option to opt out within 30 days of accepting the new Terms of Service. That window (for older users) has now passed.

WhatsApp was purchased by Facebook back in 2014. This marks the first time the app is updating its Terms of Service in four years.

The app’s latest Android update was released yesterday. The most recent update for iOS came out Wednesday of this week. WhatsApp began asking its users to accept its new Terms of Service back when it was finalized in late August.

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