Facebook’s Latest Ploy Against Apple: My Way or the Highway

Anupam Chugh

“Send your WhatsApp data or lose the account” is Facebook’s counter-punch to the upcoming iOS 14 privacy feature

Photo by AARN GIRI on Unsplash

“Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA. Since we started WhatsApp, we’ve aspired to build our Services with a set of strong privacy principles in mind.”

This is what Facebook claimed after acquiring WhatsApp in 2014. And though at the time of writing WhatsApp’s privacy policy page still displays the same message, yet Facebook has just brought another bazooka in the war against Apple.

If you’ve opened WhatsApp on your Android or iOS device in the past week, you’d probably have seen the following dialog:

The prompt as seen on WhatsApp Android(Left), iOS(Right)

What Exactly Does The New WhatsApp Privacy Policy Mean?

From a distance, the above dialog might look like an annual privacy policy and terms of conditions update by Facebook.

But if you observe it closely, the left-hand side dialog is for the Whatsapp Android users and the right one is displayed for iOS counterparts.

Unlike Android where users can press the “Not Now” button, Facebook hasn’t given Apple users a choice to opt-in. Now, a privacy-conscious iPhone user might think: “Let me just close the app and launch it again”. OK, I tried that and the dialog didn’t show up again every time.

But then, if you try reading the terms and conditions mentioned in the tiniest of fonts at the bottom of the privacy policy section, you’d realize that there’s more than what meets the eye.

Facebook isn’t just letting you know about changes in their terms of service. Instead, they’ve sent out a warning: Either accept these updates and send us your WhatsApp data or risk losing access to your chat and account by the 8th of Feb 2021.

Why Facebook And Apple Are In A Tug Of Ad War?

For those who aren't familiar, Apple had revealed a new anti-ad tracking privacy feature with iOS 14 back in WWDC 2020. To put it straight, apps can no longer track the unique advertising identifier across apps on Apple devices without the user’s consent.


This opt-in feature was a moment of reckoning for the pro-privacy users. But it sent chills down the spine of Facebook and its whole Audience Network of advertisers. Most users in their right minds wouldn’t Allow the app to track them.

Hence it was pretty obvious that advertising businesses could no longer target users through personalized ad campaigns and would understandably see diminished revenues.

No surprise, Facebook and the whole advertising industry cried and Apple obliged by giving them leeway till the end of 2020. Now that the deadline has arrived and apps are compelled to adopt the new iOS 14 App Tracking Transparency Framework, Facebook has been actively expressing criticism against Apple.

Through shrewd marketing stunts, they’d launched two full-page newspaper ads. Apple vs. small businesses and Apple vs the free internet just to project themselves as the messiah and rile up people against the iPhone maker.

Sardonically, Facebook is a company that never stood by small businesses and has always looked to copy or kill them at the earliest. It’s also the company that manipulated users into a free basic service(the once-famous but now doomed Internet.org) just to create their own walled garden on the internet.

Facebook Will Now Slyly Use WhatsApp To Collect More Data

The whole campaign by Facebook was so bizarre that their own advertising chief had resigned last month.

But now that Facebook’s efforts to stop Apple have failed they’ve(not for the first time) used WhatsApp as the trojan horse to continue tracking your iPhone.

While a user can wonder, how would Facebook exploit the WhatsApp data considering they’d built an end-to-end encryption system for their app — thereby ensuring messages, photos, videos, voice messages, documents, and calls can be only read by the by senders and recipients — not even by WhatsApp.

But there’s a lot more that Facebook can leverage with your WhatsApp data. Cometh next month with the new privacy policy changes, they can aggressively start collecting your contacts, their profile pictures, know when you or your contacts were last active on the app, track your WhatsApp Pay purchase records, and a few more things listed in their App Privacy section on the App Store.

Though it's too soon to predict or fathom things Facebook could do with the data, tracking your purchase records done via WhatsApp can certainly boost their advertising empire to target certain groups of users.

Closing Thoughts

Unlike Apple, which is giving user’s choice over how their data is being collected and used, Facebook clearly has no plans on doing so and it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. This move could either debilitate Apple’s privacy-focused efforts or backfire on Facebook in case people start switching away from WhatsApp towards alternative messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram(I’m actually rooting for the latter case).

Regardless it’s such a sham that WhatsApp’s privacy policy page still says:

We joined Facebook in 2014. WhatsApp is now part of the Facebook family of companies. Our Privacy Policy explains how we work together to improve our services and offerings, like fighting spam across apps, making product suggestions, and showing relevant offers and ads on Facebook. Nothing you share on WhatsApp, including your messages, photos, and account information, will be shared onto Facebook or any of our other family of apps for others to see, and nothing you post on those apps will be shared on WhatsApp for others to see.

They clearly mention that nothing would be shared “onto” Facebook or its other family of apps. But that’s dubious as it doesn’t really indicate whether they’re internally snooping over our data for targeted advertisements.

Maybe Facebook was always tracking your WhatsApp data and is now just forced to tell you.

Principally, privacy policies used to be looked upon as enhancements. They were seen as incremental updates for tightening the noose on the user’s data and make it more secure.

Sadly, Facebook has started doing just the opposite. Worse, they’ve no shame in downgrading our privacy and neither hold any regrets in telling it on our faces today.

This article was originally published on The Big Tech.

Comments / 0

Published by

Pouring thoughts in technology, code, and humor. Writer with over 5M views on the internet.

Texas State

More from Anupam Chugh

Comments / 0