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In 2012, WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook for $21.8 billion, which raised privacy concerns. Privacy policies of these two services were drastically different, where founders of WhatsApp promised their intentions to respect users’ privacy and keep ads off its network.

WhatsApp Will Share Your Phone Number with Facebook

This is not the case with Facebook, which earns by providing advertisers specific ways to target users.

Four years after the acquisition, WhatsApp released a statement that a new privacy policy is about to get active. One of the most notable changes include the service providing the phone numbers of its users with Facebook, which is its parent company.

Additional information may include your device information, like your smartphone model, internal specs, and the type of operating system you use. This should result in a higher level of targeted ads on Facebook, which come from the company’s program called Custom Audiences.

This program allows business to upload lists of customers and phone numbers, as well as any other information the businesses collect from warranty cards and other sources. Facebook is using this data to identify users and show them ads.

The problem with phone numbers is that they can be easily changed, so Facebook has a hard time tracking down your latest phone number, or the one you are currently using. However, you need to associate your WhatsApp account to your currently used phone number, which is of a high value to the social network.

In addition, WhatsApp can provide a way for companies to send marketing offers and individual messages, like receipts, reservations, or updates to the status of a delivery. Still, you will be able to control or completely block this kind of messages. The good news is that you won’t see any advertisements, just like its founders promised several years ago.

After investing so much money in a new company, it is expected from Facebook to try to mine valuable information. However, this kind of coordination will most definitely draw unwanted attention from privacy advocates.

This might also come as a surprise to those WhatsApp users who decided to join this network due to its user protection systems. Just two years ago, the Federal Trade Commission warned both companies against changing the way they use WhatsApp user data without users’ consent.

In case you are worried about your privacy, the good news is that you will have up to 30 days to accept the new privacy policy terms. However, you will be obliged to accept the new terms, or you will have to stop using the service.

More importantly, once you accept you will have 30 additional days to opt out of sharing with Facebook.
As you can expect, the ability to opt out of sharing with Facebook won’t be as user-intuitive as it should be. This means that you will have to find it on your own, probably in the app’s settings menu. This is exactly what Facebook wants, and it seems most likely that lots of fresh and valuable information is coming the company’s way.

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Novak Bozovic
Tech editor and architecture student. His stories have featured in numerous online publications covering hottest stories about IT-and tech trends.