Time to switch to Signal, Telegram? Facebook confirms WhatsApp will carry adverts from 2020
Facebook has confirmed that its popular messaging app WhatsApp will begin to carry adverts from next year.
The adverts will appear over user’s status updates, but it is not clear what data Facebook intends to mine from people’s ‘private conversations’ in order to target adverts at users.
The confirmation comes after it was reported last year that Facebook intended to deliver advertising in WhatsApp as soon as 2019.
Facebook reportedly insisted as the time that messages sent between WhatsApp’s users would remain encrypted.
Yet a number of security experts have reportedly confirmed it would be possible for Facebook to derive keywords from people’s messages (despite the encryption) and use them to impose Facebook’s ad-targeting model on the app.
And now the news that the adverts are on the way, was revealed at the annual Facebook Marketing Summit in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Conference attendee Olvier Ponteville shared photos of the presentation on Twitter, and he showed how the WhatsApp ads will take up the entire screen of a smartphone (apparently the ads will appear between WhatsApp stories just like on Instagram).
Users will be able to click on the ads and they will be redirected to the advertisers website where they can talk directly with the brand.
For business account holders, there will be an ability to communicate directly with customers through ‘richer message formats’ in a messaging window.
The move has already been noted by privacy experts, concerned at the tracking of users by the social networking giant.
“The announcement that Facebook intends to begin serving adverts from within the Whatsapp messenger is evidence of how the social media giant intends to harness data across its various platforms to invigorate its marketing capacities,” explained Ray Walsh, digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy.com.
“In March, Facebook announced its intention to more closely align its Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp services,” Walsh added. “According to the firm, this would permit its users to interact with contacts across those services.”
“However, as privacy advocates suspected, the move appears to be much more closely related to tracking user interests and habits across its distinct platforms – in order to better serve targeted ads across them,” he warned.
The news that adverts will arrive for WhatsApp could make for depressing reading for its users, and may trigger a move towards other messaging apps such as Signal or Telegram.
But the reality is that WhatsApp is part of the Mark Zuckerberg empire after Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for a staggering $22bn, despite the fact that WhatsApp at the time had a tiny revenue stream.
Adverts are the lifeblood for Facebook, as the social networking giant generates virtually all its revenue by selling ads targeted with user data.
The introduction of adverts have been a bone of contention for a number of years now, and WhatsApp’s founders have always been wary of the move.
Indeed, when WhatsApp first launched in 2009, it had a strong privacy leaning and its creators promised it would not sell its users’ data or put ads on the platform.
Instead, it charged a yearly fee of 99 cents in order to generate revenue and cover the costs of hosting the chats.
But as WhatsApp was merged into the Facebook empire, tensions began to erupt between Zuckerberg and its founders.
WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton for example left Facebook in November 2017 over concerns about the way Facebook “probed” at the app’s end-to-end encryption and its desire to monetise its messaging platform.
He was followed by the other co-founder, Jan Koum, who in May 2018 departed Facebook after he also reportedly clashed with its attempts to use personal data and weaken its encryption.
It should be remembered that the introduction of adverts into people’s Facebook newsfeed back in 2012 proved to be an unpopular development, and many Facebook users remain unhappy about the move.
Meanwhile another development to note is that the Facebook Messager app could be re-incorporated back into the main Facebook app after a trial was spotted by a researcher.