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How do WhatsApp’s changes to its privacy policy affect you?

WhatsApp has updated its privacy policy, so you might start receiving ads. Find out what's happening with WhatsApp, and how to stop your data being shared.

WhatsApp has always taken great pride in privacy as one of its cornerstone values. So shock waves rippled when the company announced the updates to its terms and privacy policy last week.

In a blog post from 25 August 2016, the company said it wants ‘to test ways for people to communicate with businesses in the months ahead’, hence the updated policies.

But what does this actually mean for you? We explore the changes below.

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Marketing through WhatsApp

WhatsApp will start letting other companies send messages to you through the app. It claims that these messages will be about things that are important to you. For instance, you could find out when your online shopping order will be delivered, or whether your flight has been delayed.

While many of us receive this kind of information via a text message, email or phone call, WhatsApp wants to see whether it can be the platform for you to receive all of it in one place.

You may also receive a marketing message with an offer for something that might interest you, but you should still avoid getting third-party banner ads. Even so, this seems like a bold move considering WhatsApp’s previous position of being free from advertising.

Sharing data with Facebook

WhatsApp became part of the Facebook group of companies in 2014, but the company’s updated terms and privacy policy indicate closer coordination.

Many eyebrows have collectively risen at WhatsApp’s plan to share your phone number with Facebook. This, the company says, will help track how often people use its services and help battle spam.

And it also means more targeted advertising on Facebook, so you’re more likely to see an advert from a company you know rather than one you’ve never heard of, according to WhatsApp.

The move also reportedly means you can expect better friend suggestions on Facebook, which you’ll absolutely relish if substandard friend recommendations offered by a social media platform really get your goat.

Privacy still a buzzword

WhatsApp seems very keen to remind everyone of its commitment to privacy, and that your personal messages will stay personal.

It says another reason it’s updating its terms and privacy policy is to reflect that it’s rolled out end-to-end encryption. That means that no one apart from you and the person you’re talking to should be able to see any of your messages.

Plus, your phone number won’t be posted anywhere or passed to advertisers.

How to opt out

If you don’t want your phone number to be shared with Facebook you can opt out when you agree to the updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy on the app. But if you have already clicked ‘agree’ and didn’t opt out, the good news is that you still can. You have 30 days from when you agreed to the updates to do it.

To do this, open the app and go to Settings. Then, click Account, toggle the switch next to Share My Account Info and then press Don’t Share.

New users will have to sign up to all the updated conditions.

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