Announcement Of Changes In Terms Update Results In WhatsAapp Loosing Millions Of Users Globally

Millions of users of the messaging service WhatsApp have adopted alternative services such as Signal and Telegram because of a update to the app’s terms of service that was arguably poorly explained by the company.  

The magnitude of exodus of users has forced the Facebook owned company to postpone the implementation of the new terms which were announced to be implemented from February 8. The company has also been forced to implement a damage limitation campaign – giving explanations to its users to about the details of the changes that were being proposed and its impact on users.

According to figures shared by the UK parliament’s home affairs committee, 7.5 million users and 25 million users have been gained by the WhatsApp’s alternative apps of Signal and Telegram respectively over the first three weeks of January.

It is apparently clear that the gains made by the two rival apps have come at the expense of WhatsApp losing out on users. At the beginning of January, WhatsApp was the eighth most downloaded app in the UK alone and it dropped to 23rd position by January 123 according to the data tracked by the analytics firm App Annie. In comparison, the position of Signal was not even in the top 1,000 apps in the UK as of January 6 and yet it became the most downloaded app in the country by January 9.

The massive number of users leaving WhatsApp was believed to be related to the update to the company’s terms of service, Niamh Sweeney, WhatsApp’s director of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, reportedly told the UK’s home affairs committee.

According to Sweeney,  the aim of the changes was two-fold – the first was to bring in a new set of features for business messaging, and the second was to “make clarifications and provide greater transparency” around the company’s pre-existing policies.

“There are no changes to our data sharing with Facebook anywhere in the world,” Sweeney reportedly said.

However there were viral posts – even on WhatsApp itself, that claimed that the new changes bring brought into the privacy policy of WhatsApp actually granted authority to the app to read users’ messages as well as to hand over the information over to its parent company Facebook.

The exodus resulted in WhatsApp being forced to postpone the implementation of the new terms of service.

“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 in an update posted to its site, which it is paying to advertise on Google under searches for “WhatsApp privacy policy”. The company says it will delay the implementation of its new policy until 15 May.

Moving quickly was important, said Amir Ghodrati, app Annie’s director of market insights. “These types of shifts in messaging and social networking apps are not unusual. Due to the nature of social apps and how the primary functionality involves communicating with others, their growth can often move quite quickly, based on current events. We’ve seen growing demand over the last few years for encrypted messaging and apps focused on privacy.”

(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)

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