WhatsApp is moving ahead with a new privacy policy that will expand Facebook’s grip on consumer data, despite pressure from lawmakers and users to reverse course intensifying alarm about Silicon Valley writing its own rules on data in the absence of regulation in the U.S. Under the new rules that are effective today, to target ads across its platforms, users must allow Facebook to use data from their interactions with businesses on WhatsApp.

In February, the changes were supposed to occur, but after the widespread user backlash to the announcement, the company delayed the rollout. Critics had criticized Mark Zuckerberg because in 2014, when Facebook bought WhatsApp, he pledged that his company would not change WhatsApp’s approach to user data and operate autonomously.


Technology companies are innovating faster and growing than leaders and laws in Washington can move. It is unclear how Congress and the new administration will catch up. On national privacy law, lawmakers’ prolonged impasse in the tech world has left the door open for the most influential players, including Google, Apple, and Facebook, to self-regulate. They can write their playbooks for data sharing processes across companies and around the world.

Valuable metadata has been WhatsApp, and Facebook has long exchanged data about the data, as Trahan put it. This offers insight into consumer behavior, and for advisors, it is essential. But the growth of What’s App in the U.S. early in the pandemic, along with it being tangled in antitrust suits and probes around the world, has drawn a new level of scrutiny to the way data is shared across the Facebook ecosystem.

The company’s 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp is now the main focus of antitrust suits by the attorneys general from nearly every state and FTC. Those cases alleged that What’s App was brought by Facebook so that it doesn’t go into a rival that would siphon off its users are seeking to force Facebook to spin off Instagram and What’s App. European Union and Brazil are also pursuing action against Facebook related to the same issue.