There has been a growing displeasure amongst WhatsApp users following its recent tweak to its terms. This past week, the Facebook-owned messaging service reassured users following backlash it received about privacy.

There was “a lot of misinformation” about an update to terms of service regarding an option to use WhatsApp to message businesses, Tweeted Facebook executive Adam Mosseri. The new terms have sparked criticism, forcing users outside of Europe to accept the new conditions before February 8. Refusal to do so risks one being cut off from the messaging app.

“The policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way,” stressed Mosseri who heads Instagram. That reassurance however has not stopped people flocking to rivals Telegram and Signal.

What’s Up With The New T&C?

The updated terms include that merchants using WhatsApp to chat with customers can share data with Facebook. This in turn will allow the information to be used for targeting ads, according to the social network.

“We can’t see your private messages or hear your calls, and neither can Facebook,” WhatsApp said in a blog post. “We don’t keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling or see your shared location, and neither can Facebook.”

Location data along with message contents is encrypted end-to-end, according to WhatsApp.

Whatsapp Twitter
Whatsapp wants to reassure its users (Image: Twitter)

“We’re giving businesses the option to use secure hosting services from Facebook to manage WhatsApp chats with their customers. This includes answering questions, and to send helpful information like purchase receipts,” WhatsApp said in the post.

“Whether you communicate with a business by phone, email, or WhatsApp, it can see what you’re saying. It may use that information for its own marketing purposes, which may include advertising on Facebook.”

Tapping On Telegram

Encrypted messaging app Telegram has seen user ranks surge on the heels of the WhatsApp service terms announcement.  Telegram’s Russia-born founder Pavel Durov, 36, said on his Telegram channel that the app had over 500 million monthly active users in the first weeks of January. “25 million of whom joined Telegram in the last 72 hours alone,” read the statement.

WhatsApp however boasts more than two billion users.

Telegram on Twitter
Telegram enjoyed a surge of new users (Image: Twitter)

“People no longer want to exchange their privacy for free services,” Durov said without directly referring to the rival app.

Encrypted messaging app Signal has also seen a huge surge in demand. A tweeted recommendation by renowned serial entrepreneur Elon Musk no doubt helping to fuel that spike.

In India, WhatsApp’s biggest market with some 400 million users, the two apps gained significantly in the past week. According to financial daily Mint, citing data from research firm Sensor Tower, both apps recorded around 4 million new subscribers last week.

WhatsApp has tried to reassure worried users in the South Asian country by running full-page adverts in Wednesday’s newspapers, proclaiming that “respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA”.

The Currency Of Privacy

Durov said Telegram has become a “refuge” for those seeking a private and secure communications platform. He assured new users that his team “takes this responsibility very seriously”.

Telegram is a popular in several countries, particularly in the former Soviet Union and Iran. The social media platform is used for private communications as well as sharing information and news.

The platform was founded in 2013 by brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov, co-founders of Russia’s social media network VKontakte. Telegram refuses to cooperate with authorities and handover encryption keys, which resulted in its ban in several countries, including Russia.

Last year, though, Russia announced that it will lift its ban on the messenger app after more than two years of unsuccessful attempts to block it.

(Main Image: Lionel Bonaventure/ AFP)

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