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WhatsApp stretches definition of improved customer experience

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

WhatsApp has announced it will be changing its terms and conditions which will see it share user data with Facebook, allowing the parent company to hone its advertising.

Updating the terms and conditions should not come as a surprise, the move reflects the fact a lot has changed for the brand in the last few years, though it does open the door to more commercially driven services on the app. WhatsApp will now be able to share user data with Facebook in an effort to improve the accuracy and relevance of advertising. The team are describing the move as an effort to enhance customer experience, though it would seem the definition of improved experience varies depending on who you work for.

“As we announced earlier this year, we want to explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you too, while still giving you an experience without third-party banner ads and spam,” blogged WhatsApp. So far the examples being given include banks and airlines getting in touch with customers through the app. It would appear the definition of customer experience in WhatsApp is advertising solutions.

Back in 2009, WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum wrote on the company blog “We have not, we do not and we will not ever sell your personal information to anyone. Period. End of story. Hopefully this clears things up,” and following the $19 billion sale to Facebook in 2014 he commented “Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing… You can continue to use WhatsApp no matter where in the world you are, or what smartphone you’re using. And you can still count on absolutely no ads interrupting your communication”. Job done.

The majority of what has been said in previous years does remain true however. WhatsApp will not sell phone numbers directly to advertisers, though the data will be used to hone advertiser’s efforts. WhatsApp hasn’t done anything wrong in that context, though it does open the door for a more commercially orientated app in the future. A potential worry for WhatsApp is the app is heading in a similar direction to other commercially driven messaging services; the ones users flocked to WhatsApp in an effort to avoid.

The acquisition has not been all bad news, the small fee which was once charged to users is no longer, however the team are flirting with contradictions. In a previous life, Koum was very forward in his commitment to maintaining the status quo, though it would appear the world of Facebook has altered the perception of WhatsApp.


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