Why the Latest WhatsApp Privacy Policy Update is Less Controversial Than You Think

Not sure how the new WhatsApp Privacy Policy Update affects your business and privacy of your communications? Here’s what you need to know. 

Ever since WhatsApp announced updates to their privacy policy, there has been a lot of confusion and misinformation. At a time where people are already concerned about their data privacy, the policy updates from WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned platform, has raised more questions and even prompted a mass uptake of Signal, an encrypted messaging app.  

Are these concerns warranted and also, should you be worried as a business using the platform and the WhatsApp Business API for communicating with your customers? 

3 Key Things to Know About the WhatsApp Privacy Policy Update 

WhatsApp has clarified these updates in detail through official announcements and FAQ pages on their website, as well as extended the date until May 15, 2021 for people to take their time to review the changes.  

There are 3 main things to note: 

  • Privacy and security does not change 

In general, the privacy and security of communications conducted through WhatsApp do not change. Neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see the content that is shared within WhatsApp between users and their contacts. This includes personal messages and calls, attachments or locations shared via the platform. WhatsApp doesn’t keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling, and the platform also does not share users contacts with Facebook. 

  • More ways to communicate with businesses 

The new update supports providing businesses the option to use a cloud-based API, hosted by Facebook, to manage their communications with their customers on WhatsApp. This is not mandatory and businesses can continue to host the data as normal if they wish to. There will also be labels in chats to make consumers aware of the fact that such hosting is being used by a business. Even if Facebook provides the hosting, it does not mean that they own or will access the data. 

  • This does not expand WhatsApp’s user data sharing with Facebook 

This is one of the main ways the update has been misinterpreted in some media reports. The new update does not expand the user data that WhatsApp shares with Facebook. It does not mean that WhatsApp can backup, store, keep, read, see or send the user info to Facebook. All it means is that businesses as usual use information they have to advertise in platforms, and this includes the chat information (which they already have access to anyway to reply to customers) 

What Changes for Customers? 

For individual users and consumers, the main concern often pertains to privacy. In this regard, not much changes with these new policy updates. Here is a summary of the changes relevant to customers.  

1. You will be able to talk to more businesses

WhatsApp protects our personal messages and calls with end-to-end encryption. This means that only you and your contacts you communicate with can read or listen to them and neither Facebook nor WhatsApp can intercept these communications. This does not change as WhatsApp has repeatedly stated their commitment to ensuring the security and privacy of their consumers. What this change does is to make it easier for more businesses to get on WhatsApp without lengthy technical set up and use it as a channel to serve you better. 

2. You will know when a business uses Facebook’s cloud-based secure hosting 

The new update has given businesses the option to use a secure cloud-based hosting service from Facebook. When a business uses Facebook's secure hosting service to respond to and chat with customers, you will see a label and it is up to you whether or not to message them. Even so, Facebook does not access or use the data for any of its services. 

 

 Type of customer

What changes 

What remains the same 

Individual user 

  • More businesses to talk to via WhatsApp 
  • Can see labels to identify those businesses which use Facebook’s secure hosting 
  • Privacy of personal communications still intact 

 

Business user

  • Option to use Facebook’s secure hosting services to manage WhatsApp communication with customers 
  • More convenience and cost efficiencies in onboarding WhatsApp Business API 

 

  • Hosting options – you can continue as per normal in your private/public cloud servers if you prefer 

 

 

What Changes for Businesses? 

There has been some confusion among businesses too as to how these updates could affect them. Here is a summary of what aspects change for businesses. 

1. You can use Facebook’s secure hosting services (if you want) 

One of the main changes for businesses to take note is the option to use Facebook’s secure hosting services for managing communication with customers using WhatsApp. So instead of hosting on your own servers or through a third party provider in Microsoft Azure or AWS, you can use WhatsApp’s own cloud-hosted WhatsApp Business API. This technically means that the data will be stored on their servers but it also makes for easier management and operations, especially for small and medium businesses. 

It also makes it easier for businesses to onboard to WhatsApp Business API, and manage it end to end just like a SaaS product. It essentially allows you to reduce the time to implement the API and lowers set-up and ongoing maintenance costs.  

Note that this is still not a requirement, it is just an option to make things more convenient for those businesses which are not particular about hosting. If you prefer your existing hosting arrangement, you can continue as per normal. 

2. You may use the chat information for business decisions

While WhatsApp or Facebook still cannot see your communications with customers, you can still use the info within chats for insights for business actions, such as advertising. Since you have access to the conversations with your customers, you can technically use the chat info for business needs. If you use the cloud-hosting service from Facebook however, the chats will be labelled so that customers are informed about the hosting.  

In summary, the new updates don’t change much for individual users and businesses, and there is no real need to panic or move to other messaging platforms. Remember to view online discussions with healthy skepticism and always look to official communications to understand the nuances of these updates.