WhatsApp To Limit Messaging, Unless Users Agree New Terms

WhatsApp users who do not agree to the messaging app’s updated terms and conditions face restrictions, and possibly even their account being eventually deleted.

Last week WhatsApp confirmed it would to press ahead with its controversial privacy policy update, after it made a number of concessions.

But now a media report has cast light on the consequences for those users who do not agree to the updated terms and conditions by the 15 May deadline.

Updated terms

TechCrunch reported that it had reviewed an email sent to one of WhatsApp’s merchant partners, which confirmed the messaging app will “slowly ask” such users to comply with the new terms “in order to have full functionality of WhatsApp” starting 15 May.

The email also reportedly said that if users don’t accept the terms, “for a short time, these users will be able to receive calls and notifications, but will not be able to read or send messages from the app.”

The company confirmed to TechCrunch that the note accurately characterises its plan.

The “short time” will apparently only span a few weeks.

In the email, WhatsApp provided a link to its newly created FAQ page that says its policy related to inactive users will apply after 15 May.

WhatsApp’s policy for inactive users states that accounts are “generally deleted after 120 days of inactivity.”

Updated terms

The arguments surrounding the update began in early January 2021, when WhatsApp said it would update its data sharing policy as a condition of its use going forward.

Users of the popular messaging app began receiving messages asking them to agree to new terms of service and privacy policies.

The changes were compulsory and were due to take effect on 8 February. Users would not be able to continue using WhatsApp if they didn’t agree to the new terms and conditions.

WhatsAp then delayed the 8 February deadline, as users flocked to rival services such as Telegram or Signal, with the latter hiring more staff to deal with the surge.

What Facebook messaging app had failed to properly explain was that the terms update was largely aimed at giving users new options for interacting with businesses and providing more clarity about how it collects and uses data.

Essentially, WhatsApp’s data-sharing policy was not changing, but the company’s notification for many users was the first time they became aware of that policy, which has been in place since 2016.

Data sharing

The policy allows Facebook to access a WhatsApp user’s phone number and other registration information, such as email address, as well as information about the user’s phone, the user’s IP address and any payments or financial transactions made over WhatsApp.

But personal conversations are not shared, as chats are protected by end-to-end encryption.

These data-sharing terms don’t apply in the UK or the EU, which have different privacy laws.

In 2016 WhatsApp gave existing users a limited time to opt out of the data-sharing arrangement, and if users opted out at that time, their choice will continue to be respected.

But the fact that user agreement to the WhatsApp policy update was mandatory, triggered widespread concern and a backlash.

Indeed, WhatsApp faced such a backlash that the government in India, which is WhatsApp’s biggest market, decided to quiz the firm over the change.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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