Facebook bought the platform in 2014 and has gradually changed the way it accesses data from WhatsApp users. The social networking company is now showing WhatsApp users a “ take it or leave it ” attitude with the latest policy update.

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WhatsApp updated its privacy policy and terms of service on Monday, expanding how the messaging platform will share user data with other Facebook-owned and third-party apps.

The update comes with a condition that if the user refuses to share data with Facebook, they will have to quit WhatsApp. The new terms of service are expected to come into effect within a month, on February 8.

What’s at stake?

The status, group names and icons, frequency and duration of activities, and if a user is online, the information will continue to be held by WhatsApp.

Read also | WhatsApp records record number of calls on New Years Eve

Beyond that, the platform will collect data from the new payment functionality, including the processing method, transactions and shipping data. It will also collect and share the location, device model, operating system, battery level, and browser details.

A U-Turn of Privacy Label

Even in July, WhatsApp gave its users an “ opt-out ” choice for sharing usage data. “If you are an existing user, you can choose not to share your WhatsApp account information with Facebook to improve Facebook ads and the product experience,” the company said in the previous version of its privacy policy.

Users who agree to the terms and privacy policy will have an additional 30 days to make that choice, he added.

Read also | WhatsApp Meets Apple’s Privacy Label Requirements With Updates To Its FAQs

This clause has been removed in the updated policy, which requires users to give consent to WhatsApp to collect and share data.

How does this affect users?

WhatsApp was founded as a free cross-platform messaging app in 2009. It has gained over 400 million monthly active users four years later. Facebook bought the platform in 2014 and has gradually changed the way it accesses data from WhatsApp users. The social networking company is now showing WhatsApp users a “ take it or leave it ” attitude with the latest policy update.

The updated WhatsApp terms will help Facebook and connected third-party apps to exploit user data for business purposes, including personal data, by violating user privacy, according to Apar Gupta, executive director of Internet Freedom Foundation, a digital freedoms organization.

“There is a lack of independent third-party assessment as to the nature and amount of data used,” Gupta said.

Read also | WhatsApp will stop working on some phones from January 1

Personal data could also lead to the micro-targeting of propaganda and hate messages via Facebook, he added.

The privacy policy is unclear and does not provide an understanding of how data from Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram is combined and to whom it is made available, he said.

Implication

A forensic investigation is likely to help users find answers to questions about Facebook’s data collection practice, Gupta noted. Facebook has yet to respond to questions from the Joint Parliamentary Committee regarding its practice, making it more difficult to pinpoint where the data-sharing problem lies.

The lack of a data protection committee in India also compounds the problem.

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