Important changes at WhatsApp

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APP ADJUSTMENTS: May alienate existing users if adverts are introduced.

PARTICULARLY popular in Spain, although it is used by many millions around the world, the WhatsApp messaging system – purchased by Facebook for $19 billion (€16.8 billion) in 2014 – saw few modifications following the acquisition, but that is about to change in two major ways.

Firstly, it plans to share member’s phone numbers with Facebook as it argues that this will help the social network provide more appropriate friend suggestions and also apparently will allow it to direct more relevant advertisements to its users.

Whilst WhatsApp users may be somewhat upset by the sharing of user information and also details of how often they use the service, there is an assurance that the actual messages between WhatsApp users will remain confidential due to the oft trumpeted fact that the messages are encrypted.

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For those who object to their information being shared, it will be possible to opt out provided that users follow a procedure detailed on the Whatsapp website. 

In order to find this information you have to enter the Legal Information section which states ‘If you are an existing user, you can choose not to have your WhatsApp account information shared with Facebook to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences. Existing users who accept our updated Terms and Privacy Policy will have an additional 30 days to make this choice by going to Settings > Account.’

In other words, you can’t opt out on the website but have to wait until you are invited to agree to updated terms and conditions which will be received on your mobile phone at which time you will then need to take the necessary action to opt out!

As nothing truly comes for nothing, the ‘joint ‘company will also ‘assist’ its clients by allowing adverts to be sent as WhatsApp messages from businesses that are prepared to pay for the privilege.

It is not known whether it will be possible to opt out of this service as one of the attractions of WhatsApp is that it has been advert and generally spam free. 

Experts expect there will be quite considerable testing to see whether a proliferation of advertising messages will not just irritate users but also send them to look for other options, as no doubt rivals will be prepared to invest in producing more friendly Apps.

Having spent so much money to acquire WhatsApp and having made promises about the retention of its independence, Facebook needs to be very careful that it doesn’t alienate existing users and put off potential users by irritating them with too many marketing messages.

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