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Good news about WhatsApp privacy policy changes

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Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp will no longer force users to accept its controversial new privacy policy to continue using the app. This is according to a report from WABetaInfo, a site known for reporting accurately on features coming to WhatsApp based on early tests it discovers in beta versions of the app. WABetaInfo claimed Facebook would “very soon” officially announce that accepting the privacy policy will be optional.

This would be a complete about-turn from the social media giant’s previous stance that it would systematically reduce WhatsApp features for users who did not accept the new policy by 15 May.

In its original support page on the policy, the company said if users had not accepted WhatsApp’s new policy “after a period of several weeks”, the notification requesting their acceptance would eventually become persistent. Thereafter, they would lose access to their chat list and be unable to open or respond to any messages.

After weeks of limited functionality, users would not receive incoming calls or notifications from WhatsApp. The updated support article no longer mentions the gradual loss of features previously noted, and WhatsApp now states that it has “no plans for these reminders to become persistent and to limit the functionality of the app”.

The caveat is that if you want to send a message to business accounts that use cloud providers, you will first have to accept the terms.

The screenshot below from WABetaInfo shows what the notification will look like when trying to chat with a WhatsApp Business account that uses a cloud provider. WhatsApp’s new privacy policy sparked a massive backlash in January 2021, forcing the company to delay implementing the policy from February to May.

The change allows it to share information gathered from the app’s business chats with its Facebook family of companies.

“We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings,” it stated. Some of the dissatisfaction among users was due to miscommunication in WhatsApp’s original notice.

WhatsApp stated in the notice that one of the key updates in the privacy policy was how it partners with Facebook to offer integrations across the Facebook family of companies.

Some were worried that this meant greater sharing of personally-identifying information between WhatsApp and Facebook, while others were led to believe that WhatsApp would be able to read their messages.

The company attempted to quell fears by emphasising that their non-business chats would remain end-to-end encrypted and not accessible to Facebook. Nevertheless, the fallout resulted in users flocking to alternatives like Telegram and Signal.

Although these apps saw big surges in downloads, WhatsApp has remained the dominant messaging platform, with around 2 billion monthly active users as of July 2021, according to data collected by Statista. Its nearest rival is Facebook’s own Messenger app, with 1.3 billion monthly active users.

Source: News365

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