WhatsApp, the standalone messaging app that Facebook purchased last month for $16 billion, is not in the business of data collecting.
The company, which will operate autonomously under Facebook’s ownership, published a blog post Monday to address concerns that its recent acquisition may mean user data will be shared or that more will be collected. That’s not the case, according to WhatsApp.
“If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it,” wrote Jan Koum, WhatsApp CEO on the company’s blog, adding that reports claiming WhastApp will start sharing and collecting are “irresponsible.”
“It has the effect of scaring people into thinking we’re suddenly collecting all kinds of new data. That’s just not true, and it’s important to us that you know that,” he continued.
Koum grew up in the Soviet Union at a time when censorship was a daily part of the lifestyle — and pointed to his upbringing as a major reason that user privacy continues to be a top priority for WhatsApp.
One of my strongest memories from that time is a phrase I’d frequently hear when my mother was talking on the phone: “This is not a phone conversation; I’ll tell you in person.” The fact that we couldn’t speak freely without the fear that our communications would be monitored by KGB is in part why we moved to the United States when I was a teenager.
WhatsApp says that it doesn’t even collect basic information such as your email address or your birthday, unlike many social services such as Facebook. WhatsApp does not collect message content or images sent between users, either.
According to the company’s terms of service, “The contents of any delivered messages are not kept or retained by WhatsApp — the only records of the content of any delivered messages reside directly on the sender’s and recipient’s mobile devices (and which may be deleted at the user’s option).”
Reports that WhatsApp would be sharing its data with Facebook have been circulating since the acquisition in mid-February. Facebook has long been a service users criticize for the massive amounts of data it collects, not to mention its ever-changing privacy settings that may make that data available to others on the site.
“Make no mistake: our future partnership with Facebook will not compromise the vision that brought us to this point,” wrote Koum. “Our focus remains on delivering the promise of WhatsApp far and wide, so that people around the world have the freedom to speak their mind without fear.”
By Kurt Wagner