If you don’t like being called by spammers and advertisers, take note of this. You have less than 30 days to act if you have both a WhatsApp and Facebook account.
Two years ago, Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion. WhatsApp is a hugely popular app that uses the Internet to exchange text messages, video, and audio using your cellphone. It lets you talk with other users all over the world and avoid toll charges. It requires you provide them with your phone number.
At the time, the CEO of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, promised that nothing would change with the Facebook acquisition, and it would remain an autonomous company. But that’s now changed.
Facebook just announced they will link your WhatsApp and Facebook accounts together. That means your phone number will be provided to Facebook and used by their advertisers. Facebook says your numbers will not be sold to advertisers, just used to more accurately target their ads. But their track record at sharing more and more information is not good. Most security experts expect it’s just a matter of time before advertisers that have access to your phone number start using the number to call you with targeted ads. Imagine Facebook noting when you like a product or service and then getting a call about buying it.
Making matters worse, WhatsApp will give you only 30 days to opt out of this change. After the 30 days, you will never be able to unlink the accounts. Even if you close your WhatsApp account, Facebook will have your phone number.
Privacy advocates are up in arms about this change, as you can imagine. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) claims this new policy violates a Federal Trade Commission consent order against Facebook and is filing a complaint against both companies for violating statues of the FTC. It says that Facebook is violating its pledge to never sell or share personally identifiable information, which clearly would include your phone number.
There is nothing you have that more closely connects your identity than your phone number. You’ve been warned.