WhatsApp in damage control mode — privacy policy deadline just extended

(Image credit: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

WhatsApp is in damage control mode after a recent backlash over its privacy policy, and has announced that the deadline for accepting its latest terms of service will be extended by over three months.

While WhatsApp has maintained that nothing major is changing in its privacy policy, the deadline for accepting the new terms has been pushed back from February 8 to May 15. That way you have even more time to either accept, or flee to a different service.

All of this started after reports that WhatsApp would be changing how it shares data with parent company Facebook, and that all users would have to accept — even if they’d opted out in the past. This led to rumors spreading that WhatsApp would be sharing contents of messages and contact lists with Facebook, which a lot of people were angry about.

Since then WhatsApp has tried to make it clear that messages will remain encrypted, and their contents hidden, while neither it or Facebook would be able to access call logs, locations, or contact lists. But that hasn’t stopped millions fleeing to services like Signal and Telegram, to the point where Signal struggled to cope and was down for much of the weekend.

What's really going on with WhatsApp privacy?

The new May 15 deadline has been put in place to give people more time to understand the new policy changes. WhatsApp insists that it’s not changed the way it treats private conversations, and only chats with businesses which lead to more data being shared with Facebook.

Specifically, this means data would only be shared if the business you’re talking to uses Facebook’s hosting services, or if you’re making payments through WhatsApp. Likewise, it means businesses can include a WhatsApp button on their Facebook page so you can contact them through Facebook itself.

Whether that will be enough to stop people leaving the platform is another thing entirely. This whole situation has reminded people that Facebook owns WhatsApp, and there’s always the chance the relationship between the two will get stronger. This was reinforced by Apple’s app store policy change, which revealed exactly how much data both WhatsApp and other Facebook apps have access to.

If you are thinking about leaving WhatsApp, regardless of how minor it says the changes to the privacy policy are, make sure to check out our best WhatsApp alternatives. Likewise, if Signal’s encryption and strong privacy policies are more to your liking, check out our guide on how to switch from WhatsApp to Signal.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.