WhatsApp started out with a truly honest business model – provide a free service, with no targeted ads. Users were asked to pay for the service further down the line once it had proven it’s worth. Once Facebook bought the app, almost everyone with an interest in apps and technology thought it was a matter of time until ads started appearing, but for a long time this wasn’t the case. Facebook’s long game become clear recently though, with an update to WhatsApp’s privacy settings. The default privacy setting now allows WhatsApp to share your data with Facebook.
WhatsApp, Facebook and Privacy
In theory, Facebook wants the information that WhatsApp ‘knows’ about you in order to ‘enhance’ your experience. What this means in plain-speak is more targeted ads and connection suggestions, as that is how Facebook makes its money. As we said in an earlier article about Facebook privacy settings, when you use a free service, some ads are expected. This step feels particularly intrusive though, as WhatsApp is usually used for private conversations between friends, family, or colleagues/clients.
How to Stop WhatsApp Sharing Your Data
WhatsApp will have asked you in the last few weeks to agree to new privacy settings. If you have not yet agreed to these (I clicked ‘ignore’ every day for a week!) then the following options will not be available to you until you do.
(Not accepting the new terms is unlikely to be a way of protecting your privacy in the long term. Eventually, acceptance of the terms is likely to be presumed by your continued use of the app. It will be better in the long run to accept the terms now, and then manually change your privacy settings as below.)
Step 1: Open the app, accepting the new privacy T&Cs if necessary. Go to the ‘Settings’ tab (looks like a small gear).
Step 2: Click ‘Account’. You should see a button that says ‘Share My Account Info’. If this isn’t here then you may not have accepted the new T&Cs, or already turned the setting off – good for you!
Step 3: Tap to switch this setting off. You will see a message like the one below warning you that this is a one-time thing. You can’t change this setting in the future. Don’t be scared by the finality of it – unless you really love seeing adverts, you’re unlikely to miss much!