Published: 26 August 2016
As of the 25th of August, the popular mobile messaging service WhatsApp has begun sharing data about it’s users with it’s parent company: Facebook.
In a not-very surprising move, the social media giant will begin using the company they paid $19 billion for to strengthen their targeted advertising market. This announcement has unsurprisingly caused an uproar among the millions and millions of people using the app, and a lot of questions are being asked about banner ads showing up, or even businesses messaging users directly via their phone numbers. Already many have begun swearing off the app for good.
While it is already widely known that Facebook uses its social platform to collect user data for advertising companies, many are surprised that Facebook would repeat the process with WhatsApp. However this is not the first time Facebook has used one of it’s many purchases to collect user data.
Earlier this year, the release of the VR headset Oculus Rift (also owned by Facebook) came with the somewhat controversial caveat of including data-collecting PC software. This software must be used whenever using the headset, and even runs in the background when the headset is not being used, unless the user manually closes it.
Despite this, Facebook has never used the headset for direct advertising, and a spokesperson for WhatsApp has made a statement that the same will be true for the messaging app, although they hint that users may receive corporate text messages in the same way banks and phone service providers already use phone messaging:
“… we want to explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you too, while still giving you an experience without third-party banner ads and spam. Whether it's hearing from your bank about a potentially fraudulent transaction, or getting notified by an airline about a delayed flight, many of us get this information elsewhere, including in text messages and phone calls. We want to test these features in the next several months”
Further on they do stress that phone numbers won’t be sold to advertisers.
It remains to be seen if this pledge will change in the future, but for now, we can expect to see new options for audiences in Facebook advertising, or at the very least expect more precise demographic data. That is of course, if the user base doesn’t abandon WhatsApp entirely…