WhatsApp is handing over your phone number to Facebook.
In a blog post today (Aug. 25), the world’s most popular messaging service announced that it will soon share users’ phone numbers with parent company Facebook. Messages, photos, and WhatsApp account information from WhatsApp’s 1 billion users will not be shared.
Third-party apps are still not allowed on WhatsApp, and the company promises that advertisers will not have direct access to the mobile number. Data within the app remains end-to-end encrypted. However, Facebook may use the information to serve more targeted ads on its own platform. “For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you’ve never heard of,” the blog post stated.
But for those who’d rather not share their information, there’s a way to keep Facebook from getting your number:
When you open the latest version of the app, don’t blindly click “agree” to the new terms and conditions. Instead, tap “Read more.”
You’ll see a box saying “Share Whatsapp account information with Facebook…” Simply uncheck it, and you’re done.
Notice how it says it won’t share your phone number? Although Whatsapp seems to contradicts itself, what it likely means is that it won’t share your current phone number. This only applies to people who’ve changed handsets or countries, and changed phone numbers in the process, but continued using their original Whatsapp account. Facebook gets access to the phone number you originally signed up with.
For those who’ve already whizzed through Whatsapp’s new policy, you can go back and undo the data-sharing permissions: In the settings, click on the “Accounts” tab, and select “Share my account info.” You can toggle the option on and off for up to 30 days after accepting the new changes.
But you can’t safeguard all your data. No matter what settings you select, Facebook and its subsidiaries will still use your information to improve infrastructure and delivery systems, count unique users and fight spam. Facebook-owned apps keep tabs on copyright infringement and spam across platforms—if a spammer is flagged on Instagram, for instance, their WhatsApp account can also be suspended.