How to Prepare for WhatsApp’s New Terms…and the Ads That Come With Them

Security & Privacy, Tips & Tricks

I download very few apps. I have probably downloaded less than ten onto my current phone – just the weather, a pedometer app, an exercise app, Freedome of course, and a few others I consider necessary. I’m wary of the permissions they ask for and of not knowing what they are really doing with my data.

I’m wary of Facebook too. I have a presence there, but I don’t share much. I never, ever log in to any other service using my Facebook credentials. And after reading studies about how much your Facebook likes say about you, I’m even reluctant to like anything there.

WhatsApp is one of the apps I consider necessary. It’s by far my favorite and the one I use the most. So when I read the news last week that WhatsApp is going to start sharing my phone number with Facebook, although I wasn’t surprised, I reacted. I shared the article in all my social channels. And when I received the new Terms of Service message in WhatsApp later that day, instead of blindly clicking “Agree,” I opted out of sharing information with Facebook.

You can do this too, but you need to do it by September 25. This article shows you how to easily opt out, even if you’ve already accepted the new Terms of Service. After September 25, no one will be able to opt out.

So what does the change in WhatsApp’s policy really mean?

WhatsApp promises no third-party banner ads will appear in the service, and they present this as a change that could, among other things, improve ad targeting in Facebook (and possibly all Facebook properties). But they also indicate they will explore marketing messages, saying, “Messages you may receive containing marketing could include an offer for something that might interest you.”

Our security advisor, Sean Sullivan, says the bottom line for WhatsApp users is that we can expect to begin receiving ads via WhatsApp messages. And that’s whether we allow them to share our phone number with Facebook or not.

“The difference is those who’ve allowed the phone number sharing will receive more targeted ads likely based on their Facebook Ad Preferences. And those who’ve opted out will receive more generic regional ads,” he says. (Sean has also opted out.)

To minimize ads you receive in either service, Sean recommends you manage your Facebook Ad Preferences by deleting unwanted sections. This could result in fewer Facebook ads, and possibly fewer WhatsApp ads as well.

I hate to think of my WhatsApp experience bothered by ad messages. But I guess now it’s clear why WhatsApp dropped their $1/year subscription fee in January. When you aren’t paying for the product…you know the rest.

If you’re looking for a less marketingy sort of experience, you could always try Signal or Wickr.

 

Image courtesy of Sam Azgor, flickr.com

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