WhatsApp has changed its software update deadline - what users need to know

WhatsApp has announced that it will be pushing back its agreement deadline for users to accept the latest update of the app.

Initially, users ran the risk of having their WhatsApp account suspended or deleted on 8 February if they refused to accept the new terms - this has been pushed back to 15 May.

WhatsApp said that it will be doing “a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp”, and that it will “go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace”.

The move comes after much confusion occurred around a new WhatsApp update, with users being led to believe that they had to agree to their data being shared with Facebook, which bought WhatsApp in 2014.

However, this turned out not to affect UK users, due to the fact that locations around the world are actually serviced by two separate branches of WhatsApp, and those locations are subject to different laws.

What is the confusion about?

WhatsApp Ireland Limited covers countries and territories within the European region, including countries in the European Union. The UK is listed under the areas serviced by this branch of WhatsApp.

You can see the full list of countries and territories covered by WhatsApp Ireland Limited here.

For users who don’t live in one of the countries or territories listed, WhatsApp services are provided by WhatsApp LLC, not WhatsApp Ireland Limited.

WhatsApp LLC recently updated its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, informing users that WhatsApp would be sharing their data with Facebook, which bought WhatsApp back in 2014.

WhatsApp LLC first began sharing data with Facebook in 2016 by default, but users were given the option to opt out of this data sharing. In the most recent update, data sharing has been made mandatory, with no opt out option available.

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The information being shared by WhatsApp LLC includes, but is not limited to:

  • your account registration information (such as your phone number)
  • transaction data
  • service-related information
  • information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using [WhatsApp] services, mobile device information, your IP address

The WhatsApp LLC Privacy Policy updates state that Facebook “may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customise, support, and market our Services and their offerings, including the Facebook company Products”.

This includes things like personalising adverts and content.

However, this update does not actually affect WhatsApp users in the UK, or across the rest of the European region.

‘WhatsApp does not share European Region WhatsApp user data with Facebook’

WhatsApp users in the UK are subject to separate privacy policies, which differ from the privacy policies applying to users outside of the European region.

Niahm Sweeny, Director of Policy for WhatsApp, wrote a thread of tweets to clear up the situation.

Sweeny wrote: “It has been incorrectly reported that WhatsApp’s latest Terms of Service and Privacy Policy update requires users in the European Region to agree to the sharing of data with Facebook for ads purposes in order to continue using the service. This is false.

“There are no changes to WhatsApp’s data sharing practices in Europe arising from this update. It remains the case that WhatsApp does not share European Region WhatsApp user data with Facebook for the purpose of Facebook using this data to improve its products or ads.”

The FAQ page on the WhatsApp website also elaborates: “Today, Facebook does not use your WhatsApp account information to improve your Facebook product experiences or provide you more relevant Facebook ad experiences on Facebook.

“This is a result of discussions with the Irish Data Protection Commission and other Data Protection Authorities in Europe. We're always working on new ways to improve how you experience WhatsApp and the other Facebook Company Products you use.

“Should we choose to share such data with the Facebook Companies for this purpose in the future, we will only do so when we reach an understanding with the Irish Data Protection Commission on a future mechanism to enable such use.”