WhatsApp users abandon accounts days before being forced to share data with Facebook woman Eve

WhatsApp’s updated terms of service raised eyebrows on social media (Shutterstock)

WhatsApp sees millions of users abandoning the app because it brings a privacy policy update requiring them to share data with Facebook in just 27 days.

The Facebook-owned app saw its rankings drop in the UK and US after users received messages asking them to consent to Facebook accessing their data, including their phone numbers and information. on how they interact with others.

The update will go into effect in just 27 days on February 8, and users in the affected regions will need to have consented by that date, even if they don’t have a Facebook account.

This is according to App Annie, a global provider of mobile data and analytics, cited by MailOnline as revealing that the app has fallen to 38th in the download rankings in the US and to 10th in the UK. , much lower than usual.

Meanwhile, rival messaging apps Telegram and Signal have climbed the rankings as users reject the privacy policy change. Signal is number one in the UK download rankings while Telegram is at 13.

The update affects users where there are strict data protection laws.

Users have received notifications asking them to consent or lose access to their accounts.

One of the messages that appeared on Android phones and iPhones

WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook in 2014, says the data sharing is intended to help Facebook “improve its products or its advertising.”

Signal and Telegram messaging apps are seeing a sudden surge in demand after updated terms of service from bigger rival WhatsApp raised social media eyebrows.

WhatsApp, which uses encryption technology from Signal, introduced new terms on Wednesday, January 7, asking users to agree to owner Facebook Inc and its affiliates collecting data about users, including their phone number and location. location.

Some privacy activists have questioned the “accept our data entry or exit” decision on Twitter and have suggested users switch to apps like Signal and Telegram.

Signal’s popularity spiked further on Thursday after being endorsed by Elon Musk, who has one of the most followed accounts on Twitter, and top microblogging site boss Jack Dorsey.

Over 100,000 users have installed Signal in Apple and Google’s app stores in the past two days, while Telegram has seen nearly 2.2 million downloads, according to data analytics company Sensor. Tower.

New WhatsApp installs fell 11% in the first seven days of 2021 from the previous week, but it still represented around 10.5 million downloads globally, Sensor Tower said.

Writing on Twitter, a former WhatsApp user said he had just deleted WhatsApp and Instagram – also owned by Facebook Inc. from their phone – because “their new terms and conditions freak me out.”

Another commented: “I deleted my WhatsApp last week. I have definitely lost contacts, and it sucks, but I have come to see FB as a criminal enterprise; I cannot afford to give access to my data. “

While another wrote: “I deleted my WhatsApp today. I have been using Signal for a while and think it’s great. Hope you all join me there!”

WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy reads: “As a member of Facebook companies, WhatsApp receives information and shares information with other Facebook 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, personalize, support, and market our services and their offerings, including products of the company Facebook. “

Facebook Inc. will be able to access your account information such as your phone number, your IP address, the browser you are using, your time zone and language used, data about your interactions with other users and time logs. indicating how long you use the app for and how often.

The app has been sharing data with its parent company since 2016, but offers a one-time opt-out option for users – but hasn’t decided to force users to agree to the privacy policy.

WhatsApp is an encrypted application, so Facebook will not be able to see the actual content of the messages you send.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Image: AFP / Getty Images)

The app, which has two billion active users, sends users a pop-up asking them to agree to share data with Facebook.

Many users saw the pop-up message and clicked the “OK” button without reading the fine print.

Facebook told the Mirror “that there are no changes in WhatsApp’s data sharing practices in the European region (including the UK) resulting from the updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. day”.

A spokesperson added: “For the avoidance of doubt, it is still true that WhatsApp does not share data of WhatsApp users in the European region with Facebook for the purpose of Facebook using this data to improve its products or advertisements. “

A spokesperson for WhatsApp previously told the Mirror: “As we’ve discussed before, we’re updating our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy as we work to make WhatsApp a great way to get answers. or help from a business.

“Updates to the Privacy Policy and Terms are common in the industry and we are providing users with sufficient notice to review the changes.”

Speaking to Twitter, WhatsApp’s policy director in Europe, Niamh Sweeney, wrote: “It has been wrongly reported that the latest update to WhatsApp’s terms of service and privacy policy requires that Users in the European region agree to the sharing of for advertising purposes in order to continue using the service. This is wrong.

“There is no change in WhatsApp data sharing practices in Europe resulting from this update. However, WhatsApp does not share the data of WhatsApp users in the European region with Facebook for the purpose of Facebook using this data to improve its products or advertisements.

“The latest update to our privacy policy aims to provide clearer and more detailed information to our users about how and why we use data.

“It’s also about improving the way businesses use WhatsApp to connect with customers. The updated policy provides information on how businesses using the WhatsApp API to talk to customers can now do so using a service provided by Facebook to help them manage their discussions with customers. “

WhatsApp is part of the social media empire of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, which also includes Instagram, and these changes are being made to help it integrate better with other services offered by the dominant force.

Zuckerberg is believed to be looking to take steps to eventually integrate his three massive social media platforms into one.

Will Cathcart, Head of WhatsApp, said in a tweet: “It is important for us to be clear that this update describes business communication and does not change WhatsApp’s data sharing practices with Facebook.

“It does not impact the way people communicate privately with their friends or family anywhere in the world.”

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