The company also appeared to be responding indirectly to the new privacy “nutrition labels” that are required by Apple, breaking down its specific levels of access to personal data in an attempt to reassure a userbase that bought into it as the “security-focused” alternative to Facebook Messenger.
The company issued the following statement on Twitter: “We want to address some rumors and be 100% clear we continue to protect your private messages with end-to-end encryption … We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”
WhatsApp says that this data sharing will only apply to businesses on the app that are using hosting services provided by Facebook, and that it will provide users with a notification of this prior to messaging the business. Users that engage in WhatsApp conversations with these businesses may have the contents of their chats, including uploaded files such as purchase receipts, shared with Facebook for use in its personalized advertising services.
This sharing of data ultimately seems to be aimed at feeding the personalized advertising ecosystem already present on Instagram and Facebook. Businesses that purchase personalized ads do not get access to any of the personal information or identities of users, but instead place bids on certain demographics that they would like the ads delivered to.