WhatsApp caves — won't restrict features for users who don't accept new privacy policy

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WhatsApp has backed down on its threat to hold features for ransom until users accepted its new privacy policy.

Two weeks ago, with the introduction of its new privacy policy looming, WhatsApp put up a page explaining what would happen to users who didn’t agree to the new terms. Now, with the deadline passed, WhatsApp has changed its tune and will no longer be forcing users to accept. 

The long and short of WhatsApp’s original plan was that while nobody would lose access to the app immediately, those holding out would get an increasing number of nagging reminders, with functionality gradually being eroded to nothing over the course of a few weeks. 

While the company assured users that nobody’s accounts would be deleted as a result of the changes, there is a 120-day inactivity deletion policy that would likely kick in eventually

But the company has now had a change of heart, and the support page has been updated to reflect this. You can compare and contrast the current page and Internet Archive edition to see the changes, but the key takeaway is there’s no longer a threat of reduced functionality, with WhatsApp now saying there are “no plans” for such a punishment. 

“We currently have no plans for these reminders to become persistent and to limit the functionality of the app,” the page says, explaining that the “majority of users who have have seen the update have accepted.”

The company elaborated on the reasoning in a statement sent to The Next Web. “Given recent discussions with various authorities and privacy experts, we want to make clear that we currently have no plans to limit the functionality of how WhatsApp works for those who have not yet accepted the update,” the explanation reads. 

“Instead, we will continue to remind users from time to time about the update as well as when people choose to use relevant optional features, like communicating with a business that is receiving support from Facebook.”

WhatsApp was getting severe pushback both from privacy-conscious consumers vacating the service for rival options such as Telegram and Signal, and governments objecting to the update; Germany, Turkey and India, for instance, have all railed against the changes. 

If the new support page is accurate and the “majority” of users have accepted the new terms, then parent company Facebook may just have decided that it has achieved enough and that chasing the last few users isn’t worth the PR backlash.

Whatever the reason, if you refused to accept WhatsApp’s new terms and conditions, then it appears you’ve won the battle of wills and won’t have to accept your data being shared with businesses. While WhatsApp doesn’t rule out another round of hard-ball tactics in future, for now you can breathe easy. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.