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Facebook, WhatsApp and User's Privacy

It's quite unthinkable though there is growing suspicion that WhatsApp could be sharing user data with Facebook to enhance individual's experience.

The popular messaging service WhatsApp has stated they will be going free for every user. However, the good piece of news that has raised as many eyebrows as it has brought glee to many comes with a rider; it could be sharing user data with its parent company Facebook.

Adding to the suspicion is the recent announcement from WhatsApp chief executive Jan Koum, who categorically denied there will be no ad invasion either to help make up the loss.

All of this started with the chance discovery of a hidden setting that seeks the user’s permission to share account information with Facebook with the intention of improving the user’s Facebook experience. The setting even comes unchecked by default though the only saving grace so far is that it exists in a beta version that is yet to be released.

Further, the setting is buried quite deep and has been uncovered thanks to the efforts of developer Javier Santos who had to rely on his programming – or shall we say hacking – skills to reach the point. There is no news either if the feature will be included in the next update, or if it would be unchecked by default.

However, the very presence of such a setting has caught many off guard who claim it to be against the very principles and policies that WhatsApp has come to stand for over the years.

The messaging service that said it lays a heavy emphasis on protecting user privacy is not known to be collecting much of the user data either. As such, there is also doubt as to what it might be sharing with Facebook if things indeed come to that in the first place.

However, in the immediate term, there is every chance of several of the WhatsApp contacts making it to Facebook’s suggested friend listing. Even worse, users might be suggested Facebook Groups based on WhatsApp conversations they have made.

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum though had earlier stated they are putting together another plan to make money that is based on levying a fee on the companies for every conversation they make with their clients via WhatsApp. This could be the bank informing its customer about the details of the last transaction made or the online store informing the customer about their impending product delivery and so on.

However, the above plan is still being worked out, and it’s not known for sure if that is how WhatsApp plan to make up for the loss after rendering the service completely free. Till then, it seems both Facebook and WhatsApp has some explaining to do as to how they wish to deal with the tricky issue of user privacy or the lack of it.

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