Will WhatsApp delete your account on May 15 if you don’t accept its controversial privacy policy update? No, but it will eventually

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Updated: May 18, 2021 1:53 PM

WhatsApp isn't scraping its new privacy policy despite global backlash.

WhatsApp privacy policy update, WhatsApp privacy policy, WhatsApp, WhatsApp accountWhatsApp isn't scraping its new privacy policy despite global backlash. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

In its FAQ page, updated on Friday, WhatsApp reiterates twice that it won’t delete your account if you don’t accept its controversial new privacy policy update on May 15. Users won’t lose functionality of WhatsApp either which means you can continue to use all its features including text and video calling like before. Needless to say, this was a major concern among many users even though WhatsApp claims a majority of those who have received the new terms of service have accepted them already.

Also Read | WhatsApp to move ahead with controversial “take it or leave it” privacy policy update despite India’s strong stand against it

To be clear, WhatsApp isn’t scraping its new privacy policy despite global backlash. It isn’t postponing it either, like it did in February (the new terms of service were initially supposed to come into effect on February 8). As announced previously, these terms of service will go live on May 15 (unless WhatsApp makes any further announcement contrary to the same in the days to come) including in India despite the government’s strong stand against it.

WhatsApp privacy policy update: what is it, what are the concerns?

WhatsApp has started to display a banner within the app “providing more information that people can read at their own pace.” There are essentially three points that it is highlighting in all its communications:

  1. The update does not affect the privacy of your messages with your friends and family in any way.
  2. It does not expand its ability to share data with parent firm Facebook anywhere in the world (WhatsApp has been sharing some user data like phone numbers with Facebook since 2016).
  3. The changes only apply to messaging between businesses and their customers. Interactions with businesses — which will be opt in — on the platform will be available only to the recipient party for further use rather than being used for targeted advertising by Facebook.

That said, even though the changes apply to a specific kind of interactions which remain optional, the privacy policy is not. Even if you use WhatsApp just to communicate with friends and family, and plan on keeping it that way, you still have to accept the new terms. The take it or leave it nature of the update has raised many eyebrows. With Facebook embroiled in a string of data leaks in the past, many WhatsApp users are wary of this mandatory sharing of data despite its tall privacy claims.

So, what exactly happens on/after May 15?

WhatsApp has started reminding users to review and accept its policy update and it will continue to do that for an undisclosed period of time. After a “period of several weeks,” these reminders will become “persistent” which is when the app will start to have limited functionality. WhatsApp notes that this timeline will vary for users.

You won’t be able to access your chat list (presumably this will be replaced by a permanent update banner without a skip option) but you will still be able to answer incoming audio and video calls, even read and respond to a message or call back a missed call from your notification shade (provided notifications are enabled on your device). After a few weeks, you will lose all functionality: “you won’t be able to receive incoming calls or notifications and WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to your phone.”

Also Read | WhatsApp in the eye of storm as almost 80% Indians consider moving to Telegram, Signal over “take it or leave it policy”

Again, WhatsApp “won’t delete your account” even at this stage, but it eventually might, since it is quick to note that at this stage, “our existing policy related to inactive users will apply.” WhatsApp says it generally deletes accounts after 120 days of inactivity. And even if it doesn’t, the app will serve no real-world purpose at this point of time anyway — which is why WhatsApp also tells you how to export your chats and download a report of your account in the same FAQ page.

New users are expected to agree to WhatsApp’s new terms and conditions if they sign-up on or after May 15.

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