WhatsApp sharing phone numbers with Facebook, ads to come

26 Aug 201612 Shares

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WhatsApp’s latest plans to tweak its service brings it in line with what many feared two years ago, a hybrid with Facebook. Who’s happy?

Two years ago, Facebook spent big, buying WhatsApp, the instant messaging app, for $19bn. At the time, people feared there would be major changes to the latter’s clean, easy and fast service. However, very little changed.

That’s until now, with WhatsApp announcing a suite of changes to its user and privacy policy terms. The major changes? Syncing up with users’ Facebook accounts, and ads.

WhatsApp

It has always been a bit of a mystery as to how WhatsApp would monetise its service, with its 99c subscription fee never really coming on stream even before it announced an end to it earlier this year.

Ads would emerge eventually, we all thought, and when Facebook bought it up we had no reason to think otherwise. Back in January, WhatsApp announced plans to link businesses with customers, though it was never really clear how this would happen.

Now, we know.

“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,” said the company in a blog post today.

This is a far cry from 2014 claims by the company that it didn’t know your birthday or address. “None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that,” said Jan Koum, co-founder of the company, at the time of the acquisition by Facebook.

Now, on the one hand lauding its encryption model, which it says will stay tight even amid increased coordination with Facebook, WhatsApp said it would start disclosing the phone numbers and analytics data of its users to its parent company.

The idea behind the shift is to allow businesses to contact WhatsApp users directly. And, by sharing analytics with Facebook, the 1bn users of the messaging service will get more tailored approaches.

“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,” said the company.

“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.”

Main WhatsApp image via focal point/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt is senior communications and context executive at NDRC. He previously worked as a journalist with Silicon Republic.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com