The over-the-top (OTT) messaging service is owned by Facebook. To have an account, you have to have a verified phone number attached to it.
Facebook has no such requirements, but wants to be able to connect the data from WhatsApp to its much more robust core data set, and has made its intentions to market across the platforms clear—though banner ads are still not allowed on the messaging service.
WhatsApp also got rid of its $1 annual subscription fee a few months ago, but has been looking for ways to more effectively monetize its service since.
Users are free to opt out of sharing their phone number between services, though the path to doing so is a little obfuscated.
As Facebook pushes toward marketing through WhatsApp, they also have to assure users that the kinds of data they care about won’t be compromised.
“Nothing you share on WhatsApp, including your messages, photos and account information, will be shared onto Facebook or any of our other family of apps for others to see, and nothing you post on those apps will be shared on WhatsApp for others to see,” says a blog post on WhatsApp’s site.
WhatsApp has had end-to-end encryption in place for a while now. That means the company cannot see what’s being shared between users.