This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
San Francisco • Global messaging service WhatsApp says it will start sharing the phone numbers of its users with Facebook, its parent company. That means WhatsApp users could soon start seeing more targeted ads and Facebook friend suggestions on Facebook based on WhatsApp information although not on the messaging service itself.
The move is a subtle but significant shift for WhatsApp, used by more than 1 billion people around the world. When it was acquired by Facebook for an eye-popping $21.8 billion two years ago, executives promised privacy would be safeguarded.
"This is a strong-arm tactic on the part of Facebook," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy in Washington, D.C. "They continue on a campaign to run roughshod on our privacy rights."
The giant social network has been looking for ways to make money from WhatsApp since it bought the service two years ago. At the same time, Facebook has pledged not to interfere with a longstanding promise by WhatsApp's co-founders to respect users' privacy and keep ads off its messaging platform.
WhatsApp says users have up to 30 days to accept the new policy terms or stop using the service. Once they accept, they have 30 more days to opt out of sharing with Facebook.
But privacy activists are not convinced. "Very few people opt out, it should be an informed opt in," Chester said. "No data should be used unless people are informed honestly about how it's going to be used."