Naturally, this caused a stir within WhatsApp’s user base. This forced the company to clarify the change trying it reassure its users.
WhatsApp claimed that the privacy change would not affect users security. The change would only be relevant to those seeking to use WhatsApp’s commerce platform.
However, this did little to convince users that the change was one they would support. As a result, alternative platform Telegram saw a massive increase in downloads as many users switched from WhatsApp.
This has forced WhatsApp to reconsider its move. Many value WhatsApp purely for its security and privacy features. The move to share data with Facebook for many undermined this and has prompted a rethink from the company.
Now it looks like WhatsApp will delay the change to its privacy settings due to this user backlash and exodus. WhatsApp has announced that the changes will now take place in May 2021 giving the app some time to win back users.
The move to change the privacy setting will come as another slap in the face to WhatsApp founders who held privacy and security as key values. Previous changes to the app’s mission forced original founders to leave the company.
Back then co-founder Brian Acton called for the public the #deleltefacebook. He subsequently donated $50 million to WhatsApp competitor Signal.
This has echoes of what happened to now Facebook-owned Instagram. Facebook promised the founders full autonomy over the app. However, then went back on its promise and began to erode that control in favour of integrating the platform with its other services.
However, if Facebook’s track record is anything to go by it would be a stretch to expect them to make concessions to the users. Come May 2021 when this change is now scheduled to take place we could well see another exodus from the app if WhatsApp does not come up with something in the meantime.