From February 8, 2021, Facebook will have access to WhatsApp data. Which data? And for what purpose ? Let’s analyze.
WhatsApp is getting closer to its parent company Facebook and breaks with the data protection policy of its users, which was not to share data with Facebook. The instant messaging tool would go as far as depriving the application of any user who refuses to communicate their personal data to Facebook, as of February 8, 2021. Over two billion users are affected by the change in terms of service.
The messaging application bought for 19 billion dollars in 2014 by the social network Facebook indicates, in the last publication of its general conditions of use, dated January 4, 2021: “Your phone number, profile name, and photo, “about” information, last seen information, and message receipts are available to anyone who uses our Services, although you can configure your Services settings to manage certain information available to other users, including businesses, with whom you communicate.”
The “services” in question are mainly Facebook, Messenger (Facebook’s instant messaging system) and Instagram. The data are in particular those of account creation, namely:
WhatsApp is, in fact, becoming a communication tool and a trading platform for companies, offering them the opportunity to use the services of the Facebook group, in particular for order management, transactions including financial, appointment booking, delivery, and shipping notifications.
WhatsApp is a popular application because of its end-to-end encrypted flows stored on users’ devices. From now on, the takeover by Facebook has resulted in this major development: the data passes through the other services of the company. Concretely, this means that all the data that we exchange in the billions every day, everywhere in the world, whether it is photographs, intimate messages or even phone calls, is within the grasp of the Facebook empire. The promise of respect for user privacy, once proclaimed by WhatsApp, is now totally misguided.
By becoming a twin tool of Messenger, the app could become a real headache when it comes to exercising rights . This subject is already thorny for Messenger and Facebook: it is indeed almost impossible to obtain an unequivocal answer, or even a simple answer when a request for information, rectification, or opposition is made by a user. A more than problematic practice with respect to the GDPR  to which is added the fact that the choice offered to WhatsApp users is a non-choice: if they oppose the sharing of their personal data with Facebook, they would be banned from the platform. This new update, worrying in several respects, could provoke reactions from the European Data Protection Board (EDPB).
On January 13, 2021, Niamh Sweeney, Director of Public Policy at WhatsApp for the EMEA (Europe Middle East Area) market responded on her Twitter account. In particular, she explains: