How to Stop WhatsApp From Sharing Your Data With Facebook

Act now.

Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

It took a while, but Facebook-owned WhatsApp is finally going to start sharing data with the mothership.

Whatsapp announced Thursday that it updated its terms of service and privacy policy so it can share your phone number and the last time you used its app with Facebook. This information won’t be publicly shared — your phone number isn’t going to suddenly appear on your Facebook profile — but it will be used so Facebook can make better friend suggestions and show what it thinks are more relevant ads.

That runs counter to promises made by the two companies when Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $22 billion in 2014. But there is a silver lining — current users are able to read through the updated policies and decide whether or not they want Facebook to be able to use the data. (At least for ads and friend suggestions. More on that below.) Here’s how:

Read the updated policies

Yes, that runs counter to what we all do whenever a company asks them to agree to something. But people who read through today’s update will have the option of unchecking the box that gives WhatsApp the ability to share user data with Facebook. Just tap on the arrow that shows up in this screen:


And then uncheck the box that appears. You don’t even really have to read the legal mumbo jumbo. All you have to do is pretend that you’re actually interested in these changes so you can see the option that WhatsApp has cleverly hidden:


Go to your account settings by September 23

You probably already hit the “agree” button without bothering to see if there was something to uncheck. That’s fine! WhatsApp counted on people ignoring this critical update only to be upset when they read stories like this one. So it’s giving anyone who has agreed to these updated policies 30 days to change their mind.

All you have to do is go to your account settings and uncheck this box:


Ta-da! Now you don’t have to worry about this data being used by Facebook.

Here’s the rub: Some of this information can still be sent to Facebook. WhatsApp isn’t giving people the option to keep this information within its service so much as it’s letting them tell Facebook not to use that data. It’s kind of like giving someone a key to the apartment and then forbidding them from ever using it — while there’s no guarantee that they’re going to listen, you’ve still set a boundary. Plus this moves comes after WhatsApp limited the information it’s able to collect.

Earlier this year WhatsApp rolled out end-to-end encryption to all of its users. While some data isn’t encrypted, the change still means that WhatsApp isn’t able to share data from your messages with Facebook. To continue the metaphor: It’s like offering a key to the front door and locking up every other room in the house.

You’ll just have to hope the company handles all of this better than it deletes messages from devices. Otherwise the precautions don’t matter.

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