WHATSAPP DELAYS BUSINESS TOOLS FOLLOWING DATA SECURITY BACKLASH

Instant messaging platform WhatsApp has delayed plans to roll out new tools for business owners, following the high-profile fallout from its latest user agreement update.

At the start of the year, WhatsApp presented users with new terms of use, which included increased data sharing with its parent company Facebook. This update was met with dismay by WhatsApp users and tech insiders alike, not only because of Facebook’s notorious reputation for poor practice with user data, but also following reports that WhatsApp would close accounts that didn’t agree to the updated terms. Initially the deadline was set to February 8, but this has now been pushed back to May 15.

WhatsApp has since insisted that its new update wouldn’t see the actual content of messages shared with Facebook – or indeed anywhere else – as these would continue to be protected by end-to-end encryption. Instead, only limited metadata would be shared.

Despite its defence, the episode left WhatsApp in a PR quandary which is thought to be the reason for it delaying the roll out of new tools for business users until later this year. This new functionality is expected to allow more businesses to engage with customers directly over WhatsApp, or even accept payments. What has caused concern is that these interactions, as well as a user’s shopping activity, could well be stored on Facebook’s servers.

The social media giant has long been expected to try monetising WhatsApp – something it has so far held off doing, despite acquiring the platform back in February 2014. Founder Mark Zuckerberg has even given a hint of what could be to come, saying it should be as easy for users to transfer money as it is to share a photograph.

However, this transition will not be a straightforward one, especially with Facebook continuing to be dogged by negative perceptions on data security, and WhatsApp trying to navigate the shift from peer-to-peer messaging to something more corporate. As this latest development shows, Facebook may need to carefully consider how it goes about bringing changes to WhatsApp if it’s to win over a sceptical public.

This article is from our Winter 2021 SoundBytes Newsletter. To read the other articles from the newsletter, please click on a links below: