WhatsApp’s new privacy policy: Are you really surprised?


The latest conundrum over WhatsApp’s privacy policy reminds me of the old adage – All good things come to an end. Except, in this case we have the power to let it not happen. We have 30 days until Facebook (yes, and not WhatsApp) will decide on its new policy for your WhatsApp data to ensure well-targeted ads.

So, many users may have begun getting an alert telling them about the privacy policy and asking them to hit on ‘Agree’. There is a checkbox that you need to uncheck if you don’t want Facebook to use your account information to improve its ad and product experience ‘for users’. And, I know a few who have mindlessly hit on agree without even knowing what it says. And, needless to say, there will be millions who will do so. Afterall, who really bothers reading about the changes, terms, conditions
and so on. Interestingly, if you click on check and hit on agree you can still go to settings and uncheck the box. As aforesaid, you have 30 days to do so. Once you uncheck, there is no way you can get back and check it again. You can learn more about the changes and the legal nitty-grity here.

Facebook has a history of changing its policies to clearly put the company’s needs ahead of its users’ and has faced user ire each time. Looks like, it hasn’t taken any lessons from its most recent misleading India campaign either.

But are you really surprised with this move? Now, didn’t we already see this coming. It was just a matter of time.

When Facebook acquired WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion, the social giant very well knew it would be worth every penny.
When the high-profile acquisition took place back in 2014, founders Koum and Acton assured users by making tall promises about how WhatsApp would remain advertisement-free and work as a standalone app that it always has. But, the hushed voices kept saying – for how long? Looks like, here’s the answer – roughly 2 years. After all it was hard to believe that Facebook wouldn’t be looking at ways to monetise the service , considering the investment that has gone into the product. Facebook has given WhatsApp founders a rags to richest story.

whatsappBut, its not just Facebook, there is a bigger picture to this. How bigger companies swallowing smaller ones could be ruining the user experience. And, WhatsApp’s futile promises only show how the mighty dollar is a winner here. A Quora thread describes how in the past too, many companies have simply ruined an innovation, by acquiring the company. There have been examples of big giants like Apple, Google, Yahoo and AOL buying innovative products and unable to do much with them. The most recent one being Pinterest buying the read later service Instapaper. Like every other acquired company, Instapaper published a blogpost promising ‘nothing will change’. Now, haven’t we heard that before. While the company promises nothing will change, the trail of comments in the blogpost clearly show how loyal and premium Instapaper users are worried about the changes that could come with their favourite service post acquisition.

Instapaper, has a smaller user base compared to WhatsApp, and the latter has more at stake. For instance, some have already voiced their decision to quit WhatsApp and try other services like Telegram.

Another most recent example is of Dropcam, the company acquired by Google’s Nest labs. The founder has clearly said how ‘selling to Google’ was a mistake and it simply squashed innovations and annoyed the acquired team. And, there are several such stories. And, Facebook is one such company who has the potential to ruin the user experience of about 1 billion people – with majority – glued to WhastApp as its primary mode of communications. Probably, it is time to say – it was good till it lasted.

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