Facebook-owned WhatsApp is officially becoming part of its parent company's vast surveillance regime, the company said in a Thursday press that announced it would begin collecting names and telephone numbers of those who use the application.
"People use our app every day to keep in touch with the friends and loved ones who matter to them, and this isn't changing," WhatsApp said in a press release. "But as we announced earlier this year, we want to explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you too, while still giving you an experience without third-party banner ads and spam."
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The company insisted the move would benefit users, and that it simply wanted to help Facebook do things like offer better friend suggestions and engage in more effective marketing. "Even as we coordinate more with Facebook in the months ahead, your encrypted messages stay private and no one else can read them. Not WhatsApp, not Facebook, nor anyone else. We won't post or share your WhatsApp number with others, including on Facebook, and we still won't sell, share, or give your phone number to advertisers."
"But by coordinating more with Facebook, we'll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp," the company added. "And by connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you've never heard of."
The move serves to further undermine confidence in the level of privacy offered by WhatsApp. The company in April sought to capitalize on fears of government surveillance by announcing that it would expand end-to-end encryption on the application, but experts have remained critical of the code the company utilizes, recommending foreign alternatives like Signal as a better option.