Surprise! WhatsApp to Share your Phone Number and More with Facebook

Just over two years after being acquired by Facebook, WhatsApp Messenger has announced today it plans to share user phone numbers and other analytics data with the social network.

Despite initial vows to keep WhatsApp user data private, CEO Jan Koum writes today the plan to “coordinate more with Facebook in the months ahead.” While encrypted messages will obviously be off limits, your phone number will be granted to Facebook for “better friend suggestions” and “more relevant ads”:

But by coordinating more with Facebook, we’ll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp. And by connecting your phone number with Facebook’s systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you’ve never heard of.
WhatsApp also said data-sharing will be used to fight spam texts across their network as well. But still, Koum reiterated their belief in “private communications”:
Our belief in the value of private communications is unshakeable, and we remain committed to giving you the fastest, simplest, and most reliable experience on WhatsApp. As always, we look forward to your feedback and thank you for using WhatsApp.
Sounds contradictory, considering two years ago he “set the record straight” by saying the following regarding privacy:
Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible: You don’t have to give us your name and we don’t ask for your email address. We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address. We don’t know where you work. We don’t know your likes, what you search for on the internet or collect your GPS location. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that.
WhatsApp doesn’t have a serious revenue model, but it does have 1 billion active users, and Facebook surely will enjoy all this extra data.
[via NYT]