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WhatsApp in damage-control mode as users switch to Signal, Telegram

WhatsApp privacy policy

With the number of new users surging on smaller rival messaging apps Signal and Telegram, after WhatsApp came out with its new policy, the Mark Zuckerberg-controlled instant messaging app went into damage control mode on Tuesday.

WhatsApp issued a statement saying the change in its recently revised policy "does not affect privacy of messages with friends or family". Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp". The number of new users installing messaging app Signal every day is fast headed to cross the 1 million mark, narrowing the gap with larger rival WhatsApp.

Over 8 lakh users worldwide are reported to have installed Signal on Sunday, which is an 18-fold jump from the users on the app after the day WhatsApp came out with its new policy, according to data from research firm Apptopia. WhatsApp's new privacy terms reserve the right to share user data such as , location, phone number and email ID, with its parent Facebook and associated firms Instagram and Messenger. The new policy comes into force in February and those who do not want to accept the terms will not be allowed to use WhatsApp.

Apparently rattled by the sudden rush of users to competing apps, WhatsApp has attempted to address concerns raised about group privacy. The WhatsApp website states: "We don't share this data with Facebook for ads. Again, these private chats are end-to-end encrypted so we can't see their content." For "additional privacy", it suggested users change message settings to "disappear from chats after you send them". Complete steps on how to accomplish this have been put up on its website.

WhatsApp has now come out with a list of information that it claims is  "NOT shared with Facebook":

• WhatsApp cannot see your private messages or hear your calls and neither can Facebook.

• WhatsApp cannot see your shared location and neither can Facebook.

• WhatsApp does not share your contacts with Facebook.

• WhatsApp groups remains private.

• You can set your messages to disappear.

• You can download your data.

This is the second clarification to be issued by instant messaging and Voice over IP service provider after it floated its new privacy policy for sharing more data with its parent company Facebook. Incidentally, Mark Zuckerberg’s arch rival Elon Musk had fired the first salvo on Twitter urging WhatsApp users to switch to Signal. The exodus against appears to have gather pace.