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WhatsApp delays controversial privacy update for businesses

Users were asked to share data with WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook in order to continue using the service

WhatsApp has announced that it will delay the rollout of new privacy terms which were supposed to come into effect next month.

The update, which was presented to users on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis, was designed to allow businesses to manage WhatsApp chats using new Facebook integrations. Users, therefore, were asked to share certain aspects of their data with WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook if they still wished to continue using the platform.

However, the plans were met by a backlash sufficient enough to make WhatsApp delay the implementation of the update by over three months, with the rollout pushed back from 8 February to 15 May.

“We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms,” the company announced on its blog, before adding that “no one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8”. 

“We're also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp. We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15,” it said.

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WhatsApp’s decision to forcefully implement its updated terms and conditions resulted in a number of users fleeing the service, with many choosing to seek privacy solace in the arms of the messaging platform’s competitors.

This caused temporary infrastructure issues for encrypted messaging service Signal, which on Friday saw its servers overwhelmed due to the sudden rush of new users.

“We have been adding new servers and extra capacity at a record pace every single day this week nonstop, but today exceeded even our most optimistic projections. Millions upon millions of new users are sending a message that privacy matters. We appreciate your patience,” the company announced via Twitter.

While the change to WhatsApp’s terms and conditions won't affect those in the UK or Europe specifically, a pop-up notification still appeared on the app for everyone – bringing fears over the security and privacy of bring your own device (BYOD) policies again to the fore.

Rowan Troy, cyber security consultant at managed IT provider Littlefish, advised organisations to “exercise caution” when allowing the use of consumer communication tools such as WhatsApp.

“The new data-sharing agreement between WhatsApp and Facebook might increase the risk of personal data being shared that contradicts company policy or compliance legislation relevant to the organisation,” he said.

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