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WhatsApp forges ahead with controversial privacy update

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Popular messaging app WhatsApp is forging ahead with its planned privacy update that caused uproar earlier this year.

The Facebook-owned WhatsApp yesterday, in a blog post, said it will start reminding users to review and accept updates to keep using the messaging platform.

WhatsApp sparked a public outcry on social media last month after Android and iOS users received an in-app notification about its new policy, which allows WhatsApp to share certain data with Facebook – an option that users previously had a chance to opt out of.

The policy contained an ultimatum paraphrased as: “accept this policy by 8 February 2021, or we’ll delete your account”.

Amid the backlash, the company then moved to delay the new policy launch to May from February as it looked to clarify the update.

The new terms of service led to scores of frustrated users across the globe boycotting WhatsApp, turning to rival messaging apps such as Telegram and Signal.

As the furore continued, SA’s Information Regulator approached WhatsApp to engage with it about the policy.

In its latest blog post, WhatsApp says: “We previously encountered a great deal of misinformation about this update and we continue to work hard to clear up any confusion.

“As a reminder, we’re building new ways to chat or shop with a business on WhatsApp that are entirely optional. Personal messages will always be end-to-end encrypted, so WhatsApp can’t read or listen to them.

“We’ve reflected on what we could have done better here. We want everyone to know our history of defending end-to-end encryption and trust we’re committed to protecting people’s privacy and security. We’re now using our Status feature to share our values and updates directly within WhatsApp. We’ll be doing much more to make our voice clear going forward.”

In the coming weeks, WhatsApp says it will display a banner in-app providing more information that people can read at their own pace.

“We’ve also included more information to try and address concerns we’re hearing. Eventually, we’ll start reminding people to review and accept these updates to keep using WhatsApp.”

WhatsApp also took a swipe at its competitors in the blog post, saying during this time, it understands some people may check out other apps to see what they have to offer.

“We’ve seen some of our competitors try to get away with claiming they can’t see people’s messages – if an app doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption by default that means they can read your messages.

“Other apps say they’re better because they know even less information than WhatsApp. We believe people are looking for apps to be both reliable and safe, even if that requires WhatsApp having some limited data. We strive to be thoughtful on the decisions we make and we’ll continue to develop new ways of meeting these responsibilities with less information, not more.”

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