Facebook is Finally Getting Access to All That WhatsApp Data

When Facebook shelled-out $22 billion for WhatsApp back in 2014, the intent was clear: inheriting the data of the hundreds of millions of users worldwide then using the popular messaging app. However, the Facebook ecosystem has remained independent of WhatsApp’s user data for over two years—all while the latter has grown to over 1 billion users across the globe.

On Thursday, that separation came undone, as the process began for Facebook to access WhatsApp user data. Specifically, an update WhatsApp’s privacy policy, explained in this blog post, now allows for account information to be shared with Facebook and its family of products. The account sync is valuable to Facebook only if WhatsApp users have the same phone number linked to their FB account; though, given there’s 2.7 billion users between the two, there’s bound to be some overlap.

Since the messaging app only collects phone numbers, Facebook accessing WhatsApp data doesn’t give it a ton: but, most of the data on users the company needs, it already has through FB or Instagram, anyhow. What WhatsApp does provide Facebook, primarily, are contact lists, which, provided those people also have their phone number linked to Facebook, gives Facebook additional data and behavioral inferences to make.

In short, in all adds up to a better shot for Facebook and Instagram to match advertisers with potential buyers. Even if there is a limited match rate on phone numbers, Facebook doesn’t lose out on the deal, as it owns WhatsApp to begin with.

WhatsApp users can opt-out of this new arrangement with Facebook, at least temporarily, by visiting this link. Note, though, it’s unclear whether this is permanent, or only for the next 3o days, as TechCrunch attempts to decipher themselves.

With Facebook accessing WhatsApp data, the latter is technically remaining true to the pledge they made after the 2014 acquisition to continue to respect the privacy of its users. And while the company did drop its $1/year charge back in January, they did announce plans at the time to allow for select businesses to contact users directly through the app—another “perk” that the updated privacy policy allows more room for.

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