Q&A: What’s happening with WhatsApp?

The social media platform is planning to change its terms and conditions

WhatsApp has set a deadline of May 15th for its users to accept the new terms and conditions it has put in place.

WhatsApp has set a deadline of May 15th for its users to accept the new terms and conditions it has put in place.


WhatsApp is facing another backlash over plans to change its terms and conditions. But what exactly is going on?

What is happening on May 15th?

WhatsApp has set a deadline of May 15th for its users to accept the new terms and conditions it has put in place. If you don’t accept them, WhatsApp will continue to remind you via a pop up. While nothing will happen immediately and you’ll be able to get your calls and messages on WhatsApp, eventually that pop-up will appear more often, eventually making your messaging app unusable.

Accounts will not be deleted, WhatsApp said, but the pop-up will be persistent, so you won’t be able to access your old conversations or receive new messages.

Why the change?

It’s related to businesses using WhatsApp for communicating with customers, and also further clarity on what the company is doing with your data. In particular, it will provide for situations where businesses use Facebook as a technology provider to manage some of the messaging responses on their behalf.

This sounds familiar...

It should. Back in January, WhatsApp updated its terms and conditions, with the intention of putting them into effect in February. There was a massive backlash and users began flocking to rival messaging systems such as Signal and Telegram.

Facebook and WhatsApp said they would delay the introduction of the new terms as a result, giving the company more time to explain exactly what it was doing. That date was set for May 15th.

So what does it mean for my WhatsApp conversations?

Personal, private conversations? Not much. They will still be end to end encrypted, which means no one can see the contents of a WhatsApp conversation apart from the sender and the recipient.

This change is intended to enable a new set of features around business messaging, and “make clarifications and provide greater transparency” around the company’s pre-existing policies.

I thought it didn’t apply to EU users?

Under an agreement with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, Facebook has agreed not to share certain types of user data in the European region. That hasn’t changed, Facebook says, and it will continue to respect that.

But we still have to accept the changed terms, or face losing access to our messages.

What does WhatsApp say?

Back in January, WhatsApp reiterated it does not share European region WhatsApp user data with Facebook for the purpose of Facebook using this data to improve its products or advertisements.

This week, WhatsApp said nothing has changed, and it will not be widening data sharing with Facebook.

WhatsApp said it will not give your number to a business, and businesses won’t be allowed to contact you on WhatsApp without first receiving your approval to do so.

What’s happening in Germany?

Hamburg’s privacy authority has slapped a three-month emergency ban on the new terms coming into effect. According to the regulator, they are opaque, inconsistent and overly broad. But Facebook claims the ban was “based on a fundamental misunderstanding” of the update.

Should I dump WhatsApp?

If you want to get rid of the messaging platform, there is nothing to stop you from closing your WhatsApp account and shifting to a different service such as Signal. However, for some people that will be a non-starter, as friends and family may not be as keen to shift.

In short: it’s up to you.