The move by the Facebook-owned messaging app concerned many of its users because they didn’t know that WhatsApp is owned by Facebook and feel uneasy with their data being shared with the social media giant.
The privacy terms change was scheduled to take effect on Feb. 8, but has been delayed to May 15 to give more time for its roughly two billion users to decide to accept the new policy. If they don’t, the app will stop functioning on their devices.
“We’ve heard from so many people how much confusion there is around our recent update,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told WSJ.
“There’s been a lot of misinformation causing concern, and we want to help everyone understand our principles and the facts,” he added.
The popular encrypted messaging app claims that its policy update isn’t designed to share data with Facebook but to allow businesses that communicate with the app’s users to save chats on Facebook servers.
“A lot of folks didn’t make the connection that WhatsApp was owned by Facebook, so being more forthcoming in that relationship was really a strike against WhatsApp,” a former technologist for the Federal Trade Commission, Ashkan Soltani, told WSJ.
“It has become important to Facebook that the current model of social media is risky with content moderation and privacy law. So they are pushing to find additional ways to monetize.”
After the controversial move by WhatsApp, the “Signal” app experienced remarkable growth, also due to concerns over Big Tech’s recent ban on President Donald Trump and other prominent conservative figures.
Brian Acton, co-founder of the Signal Foundation, who also co-founded WhatsApp before it was sold to Facebook, told Reuters via email that their recent growth has been “vertical,” and that they’re also looking to expand their staff.
“We’ve seen unprecedented growth this past week,” Acton told Reuters. “It’s safe to say that because of this record growth, we’re even more interested in finding talented people.”
Acton said that, at the moment, they are looking at improving the app’s group chat and video services so that it becomes more competitive on a front that has been crucial during the pandemic lockdowns.
Isabel van Brugen and Reuters contributed to this report.