WhatsApp stresses privacy as users flock to rivals Telegram, Signal

SAN FRANCISCO (CNA) – WhatsApp on Tuesday reassured users about privacy at the Facebook-owned messaging service as people flocked to rivals Telegram and Signal following a tweak to its terms.

There was “a lot of misinformation” about an update to terms of service regarding an option to use WhatsApp to message businesses, Facebook executive Adam Mosseri, who heads Instagram, said in a tweet.

WhatsApp’s new terms sparked criticism, as users outside Europe who do not accept the new conditions before February 8 will be cut off from the messaging app.

“The policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way,” Mosseri said.

The update regards how merchants using WhatsApp to chat with customers can share data with Facebook, which could use the information for targetting ads, according to the social network.

The logos of WhatsApp and Signal mobile messaging services. PHOTO: AFP

“We can’t see your private messages or hear your calls, and neither can Facebook,” WhatsApp said in a blog post.

“We don’t keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling. We can’t see your shared location and neither can Facebook.”

Location data along with message contents is encrypted end-to-end, according to WhatsApp.

“We’re giving businesses the option to use secure hosting services from Facebook to manage WhatsApp chats with their customers, answer questions, and send helpful information like purchase receipts,” WhatsApp said in the post.

“Whether you communicate with a business by phone, email, or WhatsApp, it can see what you’re saying and may use that information for its own marketing purposes, which may include advertising on Facebook.”

Encrypted messaging app Telegram has seen user ranks surge on the heels of the WhatsApp service terms announcement, said its Russia-born founder Pavel Durov.

Durov, 36, said on his Telegram channel on Tuesday that the app had more than 500 million monthly active users in the first weeks of January and “25 million new users joined Telegram in the last 72 hours alone”.