Whatsapp to Share Data with Facebook, Introduce More Encryption and Documents Support Alongside The Free Model

For a long time after Facebook purchased the popular messaging app Whatsapp the two have largely remained separate, but this seems set to change, with a beta version of the Whatsapp messenger app now having an option to send information to its parent company, as noted by a developer Javier Santos. Other changes coming to the messenger are end to end encryption, previously discovered video calling, and support for documents.

Whatsapp Logo

By employing the terminal, Javier Santos has discovered a way to show a hidden screen in the latest beta build of the app and it is this screen that has a check-box to enable sharing of data with Facebook. Enabling the feature also includes accepting a new set of terms of service. According to the application, this is to improve “my Facebook experiences” Fortunately, WhatsApp will give the option to disable this feature, and it’s disabled by default in the beta. Enable the check-box will allow Whatsapp to share Whatsapp data with Facebook, albeit privately. Likey, the data includes contact information, as this makes sense as phone numbers can be used to identify friends, and well, business partners. For users of both these services, this shouldn’t be much worrying, but for casual Facebook users may need to turn this off, more so those who do not even use the services.

Since this is still in beta, and private actually, there is no guarantee that it will materialize in the final version or if it will continue morphing. Or if the target to enable users to be reached by “Businesses they actually want to hear from” will materialize. Whatsapp is definitely in a drive to improve its service, with services like video calling on the cards as well. As well as some third-party services that are sprouting, allowing access to other sites like the wiki app which gives access to Wikipedia and other sites.

Screenshot showing Whatsapp sharing data to facebook, end to end encryption on whatsapp.

This beta also introduces a new End-to-End encryption, which makes messages more secure to an extend that “Third parties and even WhatsApp can’t see it.” This can be turned off, but messages will still be encrypted anyway. You can also choose to have special indicators displayed on each conversation to be sure they’re completely safe.Again there’s a new feature which allows users to send documents. This comes along with a new section in the UI for the management of these files, a Documents tab.

This move comes after Whatsapp recently announced on their blog that the annual fee is being dropped as a way of “Making WhatsApp free and more useful“, as the post states. This was a welcome development, yet it still generated questions on how Facebook would then make money from a 19Billion investment. In any case though, this was not expected to shift Whatsapp’s revenues by great margins since the it had always been free for users in developing countries, where most of its subscriber base is. This was probably due to the complications in billing the users, majority of whom have no access to credit cards or other forms of online payment methods. And I have never heard of anyone being told to pay. This brought speculation that ads would be introduced, however, in the post there is also a vow to keep away ads from the app.

Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today’s announcement means we’re introducing third-party ads. The answer is no. Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.

How Facebook will then use the collected data is still unknown at the moment, but speculations are that the data may be used to further customize its ad services for more targeted ads in the social network. Even if the data was simply used to enable users to find their friends more easily, this will likely increase engagement for Facebook and therefor ad revenue. Maybe enough to warrant the scraping of the subscription model altogether.

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