WhatsApp updates terms to reflect new business communication focus

When WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook for $19bn in 2014, its revenue model saw users of the app charged an annual fee of $0.99.

That method was scrapped in January of this year, however, as the influence of Mark Zuckerberg – a man on a quest to make the world more open and connected – was showcased. WhatsApp assured users it would remain ad-free, with future revenue to be generated from businesses that want to reach the more than one billion users of the service.

Fast-forward and WhatsApp has now made its next move to become a B2C/C2B communication channel. As revealed on Thursday 25 August, the app has updated its terms and privacy policy, which is significant as that hasn’t happened in the past four years.

The updated documents have highlighted some of the key features that have been introduced in that time, including secure messaging encryption and WhatsApp calling – the latter of which now generates over 100 million calls a day (1,100 a second).

“People use our app every day to keep in touch with the friends and loved ones who matter to them, and this isn’t changing. But 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,” the company said in a blog.

“Whether it’s hearing from your bank about a potentially fraudulent transaction, or getting notified by an airline about a delayed flight, many of us get this information elsewhere, including in text messages and phone calls. We want to test these features in the next several months, but need to update our terms and privacy policy to do so.”

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WhatsApp will work closely with Facebook to get the job done, tracking information such as how often people are using the platforms. Additionally, users who register their numbers to Facebook are set to experience sharper friend suggestions and relevant adverts, based on the contacts that WhatsApp has.

The firm added that communications with businesses via WhatsApp could include things such as shipping notifications, order details, appointments and marketing announcements.

“For example, you may receive a receipt for something you purchased, or a notification when a delivery will be made,” it said.

“Messages you may receive containing marketing could include an offer for something that might interest you. We do not want you to have a spammy experience; as with all of your messages, you can manage these communications, and we will honor the choices you make.”

The IM service was keen to highlight that messages will remain encrypted and no individuals or organisations will receive access to them, while numbers will also be kept from advertisers. WhatsApp said its “belief in the value of private communications is unshakeable”.

Elsewhere, Instagram – another Facebook-owned app – has met the needs of 200,000 advertisers with business profiles and new tools.

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