WhatsApp privacy policy’s May 15 deadline: With a month left, what you need to keep in mind

WhatsApp’s May 15 deadline to accept the new privacy policy is a month away. As the app continues to clash with the Indian government over the implications of its new policy, here is a quick recap of events and whether you should accept the new policy just yet.

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy was responsible for many events in the last few months. From the rise of alternative IM (instant messaging) apps like Signal and Telegram to people, in general, becoming more aware of how data privacy works. Now, with a month left for WhatsApp’s final May 15 deadline, here is a recap of the whole fiasco and where users who still haven’t accepted the terms stand today.

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy: A quick recap

The new WhatsApp privacy policy is a set of new terms that, among other elements, allow WhatApp to keep account of and share user data with its parent company Facebook. However, the policy affects WhatsApp Business accounts and not the regular WhatsApp accounts. The data that WhatsApp will have access to includes phone numbers and transactional data. Check out the link below for a more detailed explanation of what the privacy policy is.

Keep in mind that your private messages remain end-to-end encrypted and therefore are still secure, and will continue to be, after WhatsApp’s new policy comes into place.

The information we share with the other Facebook Companies includes your account registration information (such as your phone number), transaction data (for example, if you use Facebook Pay or Shops in WhatsApp), service-related information, information on how you interact with businesses when using our Services, mobile device information, your IP address, and may include other information identified in the Privacy Policy section entitled ‘Information We Collect’ or obtained upon notice to you or based on your consent,” WhatsApp said in an FAQ page.

What is the May 15 deadline?

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has since been trying to convince people to accept the new privacy terms via various means, including WhatsApp Status updates and a permanent banner that keeps urging users to accept the new terms. The service has also repeatedly been reassuring users of what the new privacy policy really means and how user privacy will not be affected.

WhatsApp originally meant to forcefully implement the new policy from February 8 this year. However, after facing major flak for the poorly worded policy and the ultimatum-like nature of the acceptance deadline, WhatsApp was forced to push the date back to May 15. Now, the service has stated that users will have until May 15 to accept the new terms, beyond which the user experience will actually start get restricted.

What happens if you don’t accept the new terms by May 15?

Users who refuse to accept the new privacy terms will still be able to use the app for another 120 days. However, during this time, the functionality of the messaging application will be limited. “For a short time, you’ll be able to receive calls and notifications, but won’t be able to read or send messages from the app,” the official WhatsApp FAQ page states.

If users still do not accept the new privacy terms by the end of the 120 days after May 15, WhatsApp will delete that user account. These accounts will lose all their WhatsApp chats and groups. If you want to use WhatsApp with the same phone number after that, you will have to create a fresh account and start from scratch, but that too will require you to first accept the new privacy terms.

As of writing this story on April 15, WhatsApp remains steady on the May 15 acceptance deadline. While unlikely, it is still possible that WhatsApp chooses to push back the date further or ends up revising its new terms. Facebook continues to face flak from entities, including the Indian government over the issue and it remains to be seen if the pressure will force the policy or deadline to be modified in any way.

Should you accept the new WhatsApp privacy policy?

For most people concerned with communication-level privacy, accepting or not accepting the new terms will not make a difference. WhatsApp or parent company Facebook will still not be able to peek into user’s messages or other personal data.

However, these users will continue to share data that they already have been sharing with Facebook, often unknowingly. This data is often used by Facebook to push more relevant ads to you. More information on this is provided in the ‘Affiliated companies’ section of the privacy policy.

For people who remain concerned about what they will share with the app on a more granular level, beyond just messages and media, the best thing to do right now would be to wait. It is worth noting that there is no way to undo your action once you accept the policy.

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