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WhatsApp Will Turn Your Account Into a Useless Zombie If You Don't Accept Its New Privacy Policy

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Image for article titled WhatsApp Will Turn Your Account Into a Useless Zombie If You Don't Accept Its New Privacy Policy
Image: WhatsApp, Graphic: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

After facing international backlash over impending updates to its privacy policy, WhatsApp has ever-so-slightly backtracked on the harsh consequences it initially planned for users who don’t accept them—but not entirely.

In an update to the company’s FAQ page, WhatsApp clarifies that no users will have their accounts deleted or instantly lose app functionality if they don’t accept the new policies. It’s a step back from what WhatsApp had been telling users up until this point. When this page was first posted back in February, it specifically told users that those who don’t accept the platform’s new policies “won’t have full functionality” until they do. The threat of losing functionality is still there, but it won’t be automatic.


“For a short time, you’ll be able to receive calls and notifications, but won’t be able to read or send messages from the app,” WhatsApp wrote at the time. While the deadline to accept was initially early February, the blowback the company got from, well, just about everyone, caused the deadline to be postponed until May 15—this coming Saturday.


After that, folks that gave the okay to the new policy won’t notice any difference to their daily WhatsApp experience, and neither will the people that didn’t—at least at first. “After a period of several weeks, the reminder [to accept] people receive will eventually become persistent,” WhatsApp wrote, adding that users getting these “persistent” reminders will see their app stymied pretty significantly: For a “few weeks,” users won’t be able to access their chat lists, but will be able to answer incoming phone and video calls made over WhatsApp. After that grace period, WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to your phone entirely (until you accept).


So while WhatsApp isn’t technically disabling your app, the company is making it pretty much unusable.

What these “persistent reminders” will look like.
What these “persistent reminders” will look like.
Graphic: WhatsApp

It’s worth mentioning here that if you keep the app installed but still refuse to accept the policy for whatever reason, WhatsApp won’t outright delete your account because of that. That said, WhatsApp will probably delete your account due to “inactivity” if you don’t connect for 120 days, as is WhatsApp policy.

In a statement to the Verge, a WhatsApp spokesperson reiterated what was already written in the new FAQ: that people’s accounts won’t be deleted, that they’ll continue to receive reminders, and that they won’t lose functionality on the day the deadline hits:

We’ve spent the last several months providing more information about our update to users around the world.

In that time, the majority of people who have received it have accepted the update and WhatsApp continues to grow. However, for those that have not yet had a chance to do so, their accounts will not be deleted or lose functionality on May 15. We’ll continue to provide reminders to those users within WhatsApp in the weeks to come.


While the company has done the bare minimum in explaining what this privacy policy update actually means, the company hasn’t done much to assuage the concerns of lawyers, lawmakers, or really anyone else. And it doesn’t look like these new “reminders” will put them at ease, either.