From screaming headlines of privacy invasion to the reality of the new WhatsApp terms of service.
It didn’t take long for the first scandal to hit 2021. WhatsApp announced that users must accept the new terms of service by February 2021 or lose use of the application, and the terms were cause for global concern. “You will lose WhatsApp if you don’t update your terms and conditions!”, “WhatsApp controversy raises digital security concerns”. Thousands left the platform in favour of rivals such as Signal and Telegram over concerns about their data and privacy. Only, the hype was for nothing…
The Terms of Service released by WhatsApp on 04 January 2021, emphasise privacy and security and explain, in relative layman’s terms, how the company makes use of user information. It clearly states that no customer messages will ever be shared with Facebook or third parties associated with Facebook, and that the company doesn’t have access to the messages or their content. The encryption protocols embedded within the platform ensure that only sender and receiver are given access to their messages.
“The full end-to-end encryption means that users should have no concerns about their privacy, it’s even more secure than the average email – email accounts get hacked far more often, and more easily,” says Grobler. “The changes within the terms of service are not to consumers but to how businesses can use WhatsApp to improve their own customer service. Facebook has now established its own hosting for companies that want to use WhatsApp and allows for them to leverage their connections with the social platform to make use of Facebook shopping and other services.”
The move allows for businesses using WhatsApp to actually provide better customer service. They can connect directly to their own Facebook store, allow customers to buy directly from WhatsApp, and embed messaging across all the Facebook-owned social networks. In short, the new terms of service improve the customer experience. Customers using services provided by companies that take advantage of the offering will see a clearly labelled Facebook logo in chat or shop windows and have the option to leave. Using this service is not forced on the customer.
“It could have been phrased a lot more carefully,” says Grobler. “Ultimately, this is just a toolkit for the business to monetise and build out more engaging customer experiences with increased revenue from ads provided by Facebook in the background. It’s a smart way of fleshing out the platform for companies that want to do more with their customer social networks.”
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