Facebook Begins Cracking WhatsApp's Privacy Walls

When Facebook gobbled up WhatsApp in 2014, everyone assumed that the social giant would wreck the app by betraying its strict privacy standards. It was believed to be only a matter of time before Facebook began mining WhatsApp user data for all it's worth -- and flooding the app with ads.  

Well, it took over two years, but Facebook finally appears to be ready to prove the critics right.

Relaxing its own privacy policy, WhatsApp has agreed to begin sharing select user data with its parent company. That includes people’s phone numbers.

“By connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them,” WhatsApp’s team stated.

More broadly, “by coordinating more with Facebook, we'll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam.”



But that’s not all. As WhatsApp mentioned earlier this year, it’s exploring ways to let businesses connect with users. At first, that means banks messaging clients about potentially fraudulent transactions, and airlines sending alerts about delayed flights.

That all sounds pretty benign and useful, but of course, it’s just the beginning.

After all, at some point Facebook needs to start recouping the $19 billion it dropped on WhatsApp.

This column was previously published in Moblog on August 25, 2016.

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