WhatsApp delays privacy policy changes after users defect to rivals Signal and Telegram

January 15, 2021, 10:34 PM UTC

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Facebook is delaying a privacy update to its WhatsApp messaging service after users started defecting to rival services like Signal and Telegram because of fears of the changes.

WhatsApp is moving its privacy policy update from Feb. 8 to May 15. On that date, people must agree to the policy’s terms to continue using WhatsApp.

Facebook said that it decided to delay the update so that it could address the “confusion” and “misinformation” about the planned policy change, which has made some users worry that WhatsApp would share more data with its parent company. 

Facebook stressed that both WhatsApp and Facebook are unable to read private messages sent on WhatsApp, which encrypts, or scrambles, messages. Some users had thought the planned changes would let Facebook read WhatsApp messages, which caused an uproar.

But the privacy change only relates to how users can “message a business on WhatsApp,” and the policy changes are merely intended to provide “further transparency about how we collect and use data,” the company said in a statement.

“We’re also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp,” the company added. “We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15.”

In recent days, rival private messaging services Signal and Telegram have skyrocketed in popularity, likely driven by Trump supporters looking for alternatives to Facebook and Twitter after they recently banned Trump for inciting violence.

Despite Facebook saying that it doesn’t read WhatsApp messages, years of data privacy blunders have hurt the company’s reputation with some users, especially those who already mistrust it and other technology giants because of politics. 

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