It was only a matter of time before WhatsApp started sharing user information with Facebook, despite how much the company tried to assure us that this would never happen when its acquisition by Facebook was announced back in 2014, but it’s not quite as bad as you’d expect… yet. On Thursday, a developer discovered a somewhat hidden option in a beta version of WhatsApp that has yet to be released, which allows users to share their information with Facebook in order to improve their Facebook experience. To be fair, this is an unreleased beta version, so the feature might never make it to the actual app, and it’s opt-in rather than opt-out, but even having the option to share your information with Facebook goes against what WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum claims the company’s mission is.
WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum penned a blog post in 2014 in an attempt to alleviate concerns users may have about its on-going negotiations before the Facebook acquisition finalized. In short, users were worried about what would happen to the privacy and anonymity they enjoyed with the service when Facebook took over. Koun talked about his time growing up in the USSR in the 1980s and how fear that communications were being monitored led him and his mother to move the United States before stating: “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.” Koun goes on to say: “If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it. Instead, we are forming a partnership that would allow us to continue operating independently and autonomously. Our fundamental values and beliefs will not change. Our principles will not change. Everything that has made WhatsApp the leader in personal messaging will still be in place. Speculation to the contrary isn’t just baseless and unfounded, it’s irresponsible.”
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