WhatsApp Is Now Using Its Version of Stories to Convince Users It’s Committed to Their Privacy

WhatsApp Is Now Using Its Version of Stories to Convince Users It’s Committed to Their Privacy
Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP, Getty Images

As many of you probably already know, WhatsApp’s announcement on the changes to its privacy policy confused and angered a lot of people, who were given the impression that the messaging app would begin sharing their personal data with its parent company, Facebook. Since then, WhatsApp has been running up and down trying to reassure people that nothing is changing with individual chats.

WhatsApp’s newest tactic: Telling users it’s committed to their privacy through status messages. For those who are unaware — I know I don’t use them — Status is WhatsApp’s version of Instagram Stories. It allows users to share text, photo, video, and GIF updates that disappear after 24 hours. In an update on Saturday spotted by the Verge, WhatsApp cheerfully announced that it was now on Status and that it would inform users about new updates and features through status updates.

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The announcement was followed by two short status updates about the hottest topic around WhatsApp right now: privacy. The company confirmed the use of status updates to the outlet and said it was using them so that people could “hear from WhatsApp directly.”

“WhatsApp can’t read or listen to your personal conversations as they’re end-to-end encrypted,” one status read, including a link to a company page about privacy.

Screenshot: WhatsApp Screenshot: WhatsApp

The page reaffirms that privacy is WhatsApp’s “priority” and states that conversations are end-to-end encrypted and that messages are stored on your device. It also outlines an array of features — such as group privacy settings and two-step verification — that it claims ensure users control their privacy.

Although we confirmed the existence of the status messages for some U.S. and European users, the Verge reports that WhatsApp has been posting status messages about privacy in India for a while now.

The company’s problems began in early January, which is when WhatsApp unveiled its new privacy policy and told users they would not be able to use the app unless they agreed to its new terms. Some critics stated that the new policy appeared to give WhatsApp the right to share personal data, such as phone numbers or payment information, with Facebook or Instagram, another Facebook subsidiary.

Frankly speaking, the new policy itself was nearly impossible to comprehend, and the majority of WhatsApp’s users began to assume that Facebook would now be able to read their WhatsApp messages, search through their contact list, and know every time they left someone on “read.” However, if you just use WhatsApp to message friends and family, nothing is changing for now. The new privacy policy only applies to businesses that use Facebook.

“We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way,” WhatsApp said on its FAQ page, emphasis theirs. “The changes are related to optional business features on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”

Nonetheless, the damage was done. In the aftermath of that incident, rival messaging apps Signal and Telegram saw a surge of new users. It’s worth noting that Signal was co-founded and funded by Brian Acton, one of WhatsApp’s original co-founders who has previously told people to delete Facebook.

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Besides its new status updates, WhatsApp has created a FAQ page and delayed the rollout of its new privacy policy from February to May. Its executives, as well as other Facebook executives, such as Instagram head Adam Mosseri and vice president of Facebook AR/VR Andrew Bosworth, have also tried to calm user fears and anger.

I mean, I get that WhatsApp is trying to contain the fallout, but something tells me that you won’t be able to fix a mess this big with a few status messages.