After Failing to Tweet Through It, WhatsApp Delays Privacy Policy Updates

Illustration for article titled After Failing to Tweet Through It, WhatsApp Delays Privacy Policy Updates
Photo: Idranil Mukherjee (Getty Images)

After trying—and failing—to combat public outrage using a series of ostensibly well-intentioned tweets, WhatsApp announced on Friday that it would postpone its plans to implement a spate of controversial changes to its privacy policy.

The original plan that WhatsApp haphazardly rolled out earlier this month stated that countless users would be required to agree to the new terms by February 8, or risk their account shutting down. Now, users have until May 15.

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It’s unclear what WhatsApp is hoping will happen over the course of the next few months. Partially because WhatsApp ended up accidentally misrepresenting exactly what this update was actually updating, countless users were left under the impression that Facebook would be getting access to snoop through their WhatsApp chats (it won’t), or that WhatsApp would disclose your banking information to its parent company (again, no).

While Facebook’s execs were on Twitter desperately trying to do damage control, data authorities across multiple countries were prompted into opening investigations into the app’s data-sharing practices, and droves of once die-hard WhatsAppers flooded into fellow encrypted chat apps Signal and Telegram in record numbers. Signal—riding high off of its fist-bump from Elon Musksuffered multiple outages earlier on Friday simply because it wasn’t built to handle the influx of new users.

The issues that WhatsApp’s trying to wrangle here are the same ones for which multiple news outlets—Gizmodo included—had initially dinged the platform: By painting these policy updates in broad strokes and giving users just a few weeks to respond on top of that, WhatsApp ended up spooking countless users. Over the next three months, it plans to “do a lot more” to set the record straight and be a little less evasive when discussing the way WhatsApp handles its users’ privacy and security.

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As the Verge points out, WhatsApp will still try to enact these same controversial policies once the new deadline is met, just in a gentler way. Rather than abruptly shoehorning in an inscrutable policy update onto countless people’s phones, WhatsApp says it will go to people “gradually,” and let them review the policies “at their own pace.”

If WhatsApp keeps up its current comms tactics, though, suffice it to say, it’s only going to be seeing more exiles until that time comes.

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I cover the business of data for Gizmodo. Send your worst tips to swodinsky@gizmodo.com.

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DISCUSSION

andrewdaisuke
Andrew Daisuke

Just deleted it the other day. Was kinda nice for large group chats and stuff, but eh, nothing of value was lost.