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WhatsApp begins crackdown on third party app

Users of the third party WhatsApp service WhatsApp Plus found themselves booted from the service for 24 hours. Why the crackdown now?

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    Whatsapp App's logo is seen behind a phone that is logged on to Facebook in Bosnia. Users of a third party WhatsApp app found themselves booted from the service for 24 hours after WhatsApp began a crackdown on the third party app for security flaws.
    Dado Ruvic/Reuters/File
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Users of a third party WhatsApp service found themselves banned from the official WhatsApp for 24 hours for violating its terms of service.

The reason? WhatsApp points out that the third party source code wasn’t verifiable, and therefore posed threats to user privacy and security. But industry followers also pointed out the extra features the third party app offered could be monetized by WhatsApp in the future.

The app in question is WhatsApp Plus, which is not officially affiliated with WhatsApp, despite its name.

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WhatsApp Plus is a companion app available in a third party app store (not the Apple App Store or Google Play) that can be used with WhatsApp on Android phones. The app allowed users further customization options, including larger attachment sizes and log-in anonymity (the real WhatsApp displays the last time a user has logged on).

According to WhatsApp Plus’ Google+ page, the company received a cease-and-desist letter from WhatsApp and has ended operations. “We are obligated to remove all download links and unfortunately delete this community,” wrote WhatsApp Plus founder Mounib Al Rifai.

In its FAQ section, WhatsApp explained that the third party app could create security issues for WhatsApp users.

“Please be aware that WhatsApp Plus contains source code which WhatsApp cannot guarantee as safe and that your private information is potentially being passed to 3rd parties without your knowledge or authorization,” WhatsApp writes.

As a penalty for using the third party service, users of WhatsApp Plus are banned from using WhatsApp for 24 hours.

However, Joss Wright from the Oxford Internet Institute pointed out that WhatsApp, which was bought by Facebook for a whopping $19 billion last year, could have made the move to ensure future monetization efforts weren’t threatened.

"That could potentially prevent it from adding services later for an added cost," he says to the BBC. "Or if it wants to add adverts later and ensure they are being served to the people who should be seeing them, then that it needs to maintain control and prevent the rules that it has set from being bypassed by third-party clients."

WhatsApp claims to have more than 700 million users worldwide who send an average of 30 billion messages everyday. One app store reports WhatsApp Plus had about 35 million downloads since its launch in 2012. 

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