WhatsApp and Facebook have been mostly separate so far, despite WhatsApp’s acquisition, but Facebook will now get WhatsApp user data, including phone numbers
The new terms recognize Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp, given that the last set of terms were rolled out before Facebook made its move. The acquisition had many worried that Facebook would eclipse, or even discontinue, WhatsApp at some point in time. Facebook’s own Messenger service serves the same purpose. However, Facebook has kept WhatsApp around, and now believes that closer coordination will lead to additional helpful features. Facebook wants to combat spam by tracking basic usage metrics and linking users’ phone numbers to Facebook.
Facebook believes that it can offer more relevant ads to users, and even provide better friend suggestions as a result. Facebook already does that, and having used the feature, it is safe to say that adding the local cable guy on Facebook through the phone number is not exactly a priority for most users. Facebook, however, focuses more on the advertisement aspect, and gave the example of seeing an ad from a well-known company one is associated with rather than an advertisement from an unknown company. Interestingly enough, this kind of negates one key aspect of advertisement (i.e. creating awareness).
WhatsApp acknowledged that the app is mainly used to stay in touch with familiar friends and loved ones. The company said that this would not change, and hinted that relevant businesses could contact users. The bank could send updates over WhatsApp, while an airline carrier could notify users about a delayed flight over WhatsApp. Ironically, in both these cases, an urgent call to action is required; if a user’s Wi-Fi or mobile internet is simply turned off or not working, text messages would undoubtedly be a much better alternative. The ideal scenario would be to receive a call regarding the issue, which is fairly hard to ignore.
WhatsApp also said that its updates will include the part where the company employs end-to-end encryption for all messages by default. According to WhatsApp, that will not change even with the new Facebook agreement. Neither Facebook nor WhatsApp will be able to access users’ messages, which is something Facebook Inc would want as well, considering the company got into some serious trouble in Brazil when it failed to share information regarding a drug investigation.
Despite catering to advertisers, Facebook said that it would not hand out or sell phone numbers to advertisers. That said, this is a clear move by Facebook to milk some cash from an app it acquired for around $21 billion. Given that WhatsApp has over a billion users, it makes sense for the company to take this step. That said, the spirit of the app is its simplicity and its ability to connect people.
Businesses can already reach users on Messenger, and most of the same users are on WhatsApp too. There might hence be some duplication, and if businesses are paying for the service, they might not get the same kind of returns in terms of connectivity. Facebook might be better off keeping one app for business-plus-messages, and the other strictly for personal contacts.