Earlier this year, Facebook announced it would acquire messaging app WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion. Reaction could basically be divided into two categories: a) incredulousness at the sheer size of the deal and b) worries among privacy groups about what the future will bring for millions of current WhatsApp users across the globe.
Today, Jan Koum, the CEO of WhatsApp, pushed back against critics in a strongly-worded post on the WhatsApp blog. Title: "Setting the record straight."
"If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it," Mr. Koum wrote. "Instead, we are forming a partnership that would allow us to continue operating independently and autonomously. Our fundamental values and beliefs will not change. Our principles will not change. Everything that has made WhatsApp the leader in personal messaging will still be in place."
Koum added that the platform did not ask for legal names, e-mail addresses, birthdays, workplaces, or home addresses; "we don't know your likes, what you search for on the internet or collect your GPS location," he wrote.
In the future, the company has no plans to change that policy, Koum said.
Earlier this month, two non-profit groups, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy, publicly urged the FTC to block Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp. As the groups noted, in the past, WhatsApp had promised not to "collect user data for advertising revenue." Under Facebook, that might change, they argued.
"Users provided detailed personal information to the company including private text to close friends," reads the complaint filed with the FTC. "Facebook routinely makes use of user information for advertising purposes and has made clear that it intends to incorporate the data of WhatsApp users into the user profiling business model."
In response, a Facebook spokesperson told CNET that "Whatsapp will operate as a separate company and will honor its commitments to privacy and security."