Privacy groups have praised WhatsApp for building powerful encryption into its services, making it impossible for the company or anyone else to read users’ messages.
WhatsApp, which was bought by Facebook in 2014 in a deal worth £16.5 billion, reiterated that all messages within the service would remain encrypted end-to-end.
The change is the first update to privacy settings since 2012 and comes two years after Facebook took over the company. At that time, WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum tried to alleviate those concerns.
“We do not want you to have a spammy experience”, the company said.
Now WhatsApp’s blog says it will pass data along to its parent as part of its commitment to giving users the “most reliable experience”, adding: “By coordinating more with Facebook, we’ll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp”.
The ads would come through a Facebook program called “Custom Audiences”, which lets a business upload lists of customers and phone numbers or other contact information the business has collected from warranty cards or other sources.
Facebook does want WhatsApp to be used to deliver ads, however it doesn’t want to do so in a spammy way. “For example, you may receive flight status information for upcoming travel, a receipt for something you purchased, or a notification when a delivery will be made”. WhatsApp also promises that it won’t share your number with others (except Facebook of course), including on Facebook, nor will they share or sell your phone number to advertisers. Several hundred new comments about the WhatsApp news were being posted every few minutes on Twitter earlier today. Facebook will also use the phone number to suggest friends.