WhatsApp Rows Back After Protests

 WhatsApp has been criticized worldwide for the planned introduction of new data protection rules. Many users have even turned their backs on the messenger service. Now the group is playing for time – and is postponing the introduction of the new data protection rules by a good three months. Instead of February 8, users should agree to the new data protection guideline by May 15, WhatsApp surprisingly announced late on Friday.

According to its own information, WhatsApp wants to create better opportunities for communication with companies with the changes. The so-called end-to-end encryption, with which chat content is only visible to the participating users, but not even to WhatsApp itself in plain text, will not be shaken, the company assured. There are also no plans to forward data to Facebook. Outside the EU, some WhatsApp user data has been sent to Facebook for advertising purposes or to improve products – albeit since 2016.

With more than two billion users, WhatsApp is the largest chat service in the world. It is followed by Facebook Messenger with 1.3 billion users. In the past few weeks, WhatsApp rivals such as the controversial Telegram, Signal or Threema have reported strong growth – because users left WhatsApp after the announcement of the new data protection directive. WhatsApp lamented the spread of false information about the changes, which they want to clear up by mid-May.

The fact that WhatsApp should also become a channel for communication between companies and their customers has been one of the central ideas for some time as to how Facebook could ultimately earn money with the chat service. The online network bought WhatsApp in 2014 for around 22 billion dollars. Another consideration was advertising in the so-called status area of ​​the app, in which users can post photos for their contacts for a day. But this has been put on hold.

WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton left Facebook a few years ago. According to media reports, there were differences of opinion with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg. Acton is a central donor for the Signal app – which uses the same encryption technology as WhatsApp. Acton joined calls to leave Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

At the same time, Mark Zuckerberg presented the plan some time ago to focus Facebook more on completely encrypted communication. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram’s chat function should also share a technical platform. The US government and more than 40 states are currently calling for Facebook to be broken up by splitting off WhatsApp and Instagram. A common technical infrastructure would make such projects more difficult.