More than 1 billion people use WhatsApp around the world to stay connected — it was exactly the kind of reach that prompted Facebook’s eye-popping $19 billion acquisition of the service, the company’s most expensive purchase. (Facebook’s own user base is more than 1.7 billion people.)
At the time of the deal, CEO Jan Koum wrote in a blog: “Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing.” And then in March: “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.”
On Thursday, however, the messaging company released details of new “terms of service.” As analysts have long predicted, WhatsApp and Facebook are moving closer toward linking the two independent businesses and making money from the free messaging app.
“As we announced earlier this year, we want to explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you too, while still giving you an experience without third-party banner ads and spam,” said WhatsApp’s blog post announcing the changes. The company had teased this possibility in January when it did away with subscription fees.
WhatsApp says it will also begin sharing phone numbers and other data, such as the last time of log-in, with the “Facebook family of companies,” whose largest members include the photo site Instagram and the virtual reality company Oculus VR.