Much has been said about WhatsApp and its stance on user privacy after it had been acquired by Facebook in a $19 billion deal. Much of it has been speculation and inaccurate, something brought to the forefront by WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum.
In a blog post, Koum said WhatsApp took the privacy of users very seriously and had no plans to collect additional user data at behest of Facebook.
“Our principles will not change”
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“There has been a lot of inaccurate and careless information about what our future partnership (with Facebook) would mean for WhatsApp users’ data and privacy … I’d like to set the record straight,” said Koum. “If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it. Our fundamental values and beliefs will not change. Our principles will not change.”
In early March, privacy watchdogs in the US filed a complaint the Federal Trade Commission in the US asking the entity to probe, and if required stay, the Facebook acquisition because it represented a privacy risk for WhatsApp users. As can be seen with Instagram, according to the privacy watchdogs, Facebook was known to change the data collection policies at the companies it acquired, potentially putting over 450 million users at privacy risk.
There was also an Android security hole that the company immediately denounced as “overstated” under “normal circumstances”.
“Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA”
Koum said that as someone who grew up in the USSR, he understood the importance of privacy. “For me, this is very personal. I was born in Ukraine, and grew up in the USSR during the 1980s. The fact that we couldn’t speak freely without the fear that our communications would be monitored by KGB is in part why we moved to the United States when I was a teenager,” he said.
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“Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible: You don’t have to give us your name and we don’t ask for your email address. We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address. We don’t know where you work. We don’t know your likes, what you search for on the internet or collect your GPS location. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that.”