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Chatting with a business account on WhatsApp? Here’s what you need to keep in mind

WhatsApp privacy policy update: When it comes to chats with business accounts, the privacy policy does come with some important updates, and in select cases some data maybe shared with Facebook.

By: Tech Desk | Chandigarh | Updated: January 13, 2021 11:10:09 am
WhatsApp, WhatsApp privacy policy, WhatsApp privacy update, WhatsApp update, WhatsApp privacy policy features, WhatsApp business, WhatsApp E2E, WhatsApp vs SignalFacebook, Instagram and WhatsApp apps are arranged for a photograph on a smartphone. (Image source Roy Liu/Bloomberg)

Facing a trust deficit after an update to its privacy policy last week, WhatsApp Tuesday released a new post elaborating on the changes in the privacy policy and trying to reassure users that it does not share any personal chats, messages or call history with Facebook. But when it comes to chats with business accounts, the privacy policy does come with some important updates, and in select cases, data may be shared with Facebook.

WhatsApp has tried to clarify on how when one interacts with a business account on the platform, the considerations could be a bit different. First, let’s take a look at what the privacy policy says about businesses on the platform? This is what the relevant two paragraphs read like:

Businesses you interact with using our Services may provide us with information about their interactions with you. We require each of these businesses to act in accordance with applicable law when providing any information to us.

When you message with a business on WhatsApp, keep in mind that the content you share may be visible to several people in that business. In addition, some businesses might be working with third-party service providers (which may include Facebook) to help manage their communications with their customers. For example, a business may give such third-party service provider access to its communications to send, store, read, manage, or otherwise process them for the business. To understand how a business processes your information, including how it might share your information with third parties or Facebook, you should review that business’ privacy policy or contact the business directly.

What this means is that messaging a business on WhatsApp is not the same as one-on-one chat with your friends and family. These messages will be visible to a lot more people in the business, and could rely on a different company to store, read or reply to messages. This is what the notice will look like when you interact with a business account.

WhatsApp business chat This is what the message will read like when you interact with a business account.

Businesses using Facebook hosting services 

Some businesses might use “hosting services” from Facebook itself to manage communications on WhatsApp. These hosting services are used to manage chats with customers, “answer questions, and send helpful information like purchase receipts.” When you talk to a business on WhatsApp, it sees what you are saying and could be storing those chats for their internal review purposes.

Also read: WhatsApp clarifies: Nothing changes for messages with friends, family

For instance, if you purchase a product on xyz website, and the order alerts also appear on WhatsApp with details about delivery etc, and the company is using Facebook’s hosting services, the data could be shared with the social network. WhatsApp also says that information shared on business chats could later be used by the business for “its own marketing purposes, which may include advertising on Facebook.”

So you might talk to a business about purchasing something from them, and later you could see an ad for the same on Facebook. WhatsApp says it will “clearly label conversations with businesses that are choosing to use hosting services from Facebook.”

More e-commerce features

WhatsApp now has features like Shops, where businesses can display their goods right within the app. This is a Facebook-branded product and it started rolling out to the platform in December 2020.

WhatsApp clarifies that if you “choose to interact with Shops, your shopping activity can be used to personalise your Shops experience and the ads you see on Facebook and Instagram.” It will inform users of how their data is shared with Facebook should they choose to use Shops on the platform.

Also read: WhatsApp privacy policy update: Don’t fall for these false claims

Not all business accounts have the Shops feature activated. Some are simple business accounts without the ability to purchase products directly from the messaging app. But as more businesses rely on WhatsApp to conduct their business, they will likely use such features.

Finding a business

WhatsApp also says users “may see an ad on Facebook with a button to message a business using WhatsApp.” If one has WhatsApp installed on their phone, they will have the option to message that business. If you do interact with these ads, “Facebook may use this information to personalise the ads that you see on the social network.”

So how do I avoid business accounts on WhatsApp?

If you do not wish to talk to any business account on WhatsApp, you always have the option of blocking it straight on the app. Further, when you are ordering products from websites, some might ask if you want to get updates on WhatsApp. You can choose to say no to the option. For instance, sites like MakeMyTrip, Nykaa, etc do send updates about flights or orders on WhatsApp. You can choose to say no to that particular option.

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