SAN FRANCISCO: WhatsApp reassured users Tuesday about privacy at its Facebook-owned messaging service as people flocked to competitors Telegram and Signal after an amendment to its terms.
Adam Mosseri, the Facebook CEO who heads Instagram, said in a tweet that there had been “a lot of misinformation” about an update to their terms of service regarding the option to use WhatsApp to send messages to companies.
WhatsApp’s new terms have sparked criticism, as users outside Europe who do not accept the new terms 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 relates to how merchants who use WhatsApp to chat with customers share data with Facebook, which could use the information to target ads, according to the social network.
“We cannot see your private messages or hear your calls, and neither can Facebook,” WhatsApp said in a blog post.
“We do not keep logs of those who write or contact them. We cannot see your co-location and neither does Facebook.
According to WhatsApp, the location data is encrypted along with the message contents end-to-end.
“We are giving companies the option to use secure Facebook hosting services to manage WhatsApp conversations with their customers, answer questions, and send useful information such as purchase receipts,” WhatsApp said in the post.
“Whether you communicate with a company via phone, email, or WhatsApp, they can see what they say and may use this information for their own marketing purposes, which may include advertising on Facebook.”
Its Russian-born founder, Pavel Dorov, said the encrypted messaging app Telegram has seen user rankings emerge in the wake of WhatsApp’s terms of service announcement.
Dorov, 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 just the last 72 hours.”
WhatsApp has more than two billion users.
“People no longer want to exchange their privacy for free services,” Dorov said, without directly referring to the competing app.
Encrypted messaging app Signal has also seen a surge in demand, helped by a Twitter recommendation from celebrity entrepreneur Elon Musk.
Telegram is a popular social media platform in a number of countries, particularly in the former Soviet Union and Iran, and is used for private communications and for sharing information and news.
Dorov said Telegram has become a “refuge” for those looking for a private and secure communications platform and assured new users that his team “takes this responsibility very seriously.”
Telegram was founded in 2013 by brothers Pavel and Nikolai Dorov, who also founded the Russian social network VKontakte.
Telegram is refusing to cooperate with the authorities and hand over the encryption keys, which has resulted in it being banned in several countries, including Russia.
Last year, Russia announced that it would lift the ban on the messenger app after more than two years of failed attempts to block it.