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WhatsApp will share your phone number with Facebook

For the first time in four years, WhatsApp is updating its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, and the big news is that the messaging service will share users’ phone numbers with Facebook.

“By connecting your phone number with Facebook’s systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them,” the company explained the move.

The company claims to be still adamantly against third-party banner ads on WhatsApp. “We do not allow third-party banner ads on WhatsApp. We have no intention to introduce them, but if we ever do, we will update this policy,” they say in the Privacy Policy, but I also notice that they don’t explicitly say that they “will never introduce third-party ads.”

Even though, ultimately, you know they will do what they want in the end, this type of word play is meant to, and probably will, placate many WhatsApp users who will initially get riled about the new changes.

But while users might not (yet) get ads on WhatsApp, they may be getting offers from businesses with which they communicate.

“For example, you may receive flight status information for upcoming travel, a receipt for something you purchased, or a notification when a delivery will be made. Messages you may receive containing marketing could include an offer for something that might interest you,” says WhatsApp.

This, in itself, is not a bad thing, and many users might like it. WhatsApp says that “as with all of your messages, you can manage these communications, and we will honor the choices you make.”

WhatsApp promises that the encrypted messages users send or receive will still be off-limits to everyone, including them or Facebook or anyone else. WhatsApp has implemented end-to-end encryption by default in April this year.

These latest changes shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise to anyone who has noticed that in January, WhatsApp did away with all subscription fees. Companies must earn, and money has to come from somewhere – if not from the users, then from the businesses who will (directly or indirectly) pay to have access to them.

After Facebook acquired WhatsApp, WhatsApp’s co-founder Jan Koum decided to address speculations about whether the privacy of their users will be affected by the deal.

“Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible: You don’t have to give us your name and we don’t ask for your email address. We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address. We don’t know where you work. We don’t know your likes, what you search for on the internet or collect your GPS location. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that,” he noted at the time.

I guess only time will tell if today’s announcement is a one-off concession, or the first raising of the heat that will ultimately kill the metaphorical boiling frog.

The phone number sharing will be performed by default, unless users opt out of it. Instructions on how to do that can be found here, just be aware that you have only 30 days to do it once you agree to the updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

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