WhatsApp is delaying by three months the rollout of new business features following a user backlash over the company’s data sharing practices that critics said would have forced users to share personal data with Facebook.
According to the company blog post published in Friday “the delay is due to “confusion” and “misinformation” surrounding the new policy. WhatsAap said the new policy update only includes new options for people to manage their business on WhatsApp and “does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook.”
The date of the new policy rollout will be pushed back until May 15, according to the blog post. WhatsApp also said no one’s account will be suspended or deleted on February 8, when the policy was originally scheduled to go into effect.
After the new policy was announced, many users began flocking to alternative messaging platforms, such as the encrypted chat app Signal.
According to business insider Signal saw 7.5 million downloads last week, a 4,200% spike since the previous week. On Wednesday, Signal was at the top of both Google and Apple’s app stores. Large swaths of users migrated to Telegram as well — the platform gained 9 million new users last week, up 91% from the previous week, and is also at the top of Google and Apple’s app stores.
WhatsApp had insisted that the planned update does not affect personal conversations, which it said will continue to have end-to-end encryption, or expand its ability to share data with Facebook.
“The update includes new options people will have to message a business on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data,” the company said.
WhatsApp said it had set a new target date of 15 May for the launch of the business tools and will approach users gradually to review the policy changes.
Facebook has been rolling out business tools on WhatsApp over the past year as it moves to boost revenue from higher-growth units like WhatsApp and Instagram while knitting together e-commerce infrastructure across the company.
Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014 but has been slow to monetize it.
The app already shares certain categories of personal data, including the user’s phone number and IP address, with Facebook.
WhatsApp said in October 2020 that it would start to offer in-app purchases via Facebook Shops and would offer firms who use its customer service messaging tools the ability to store those messages on Facebook servers.
WhatsApp said at the time that chats with a business using the new hosting service would not be protected by the app’s end-to-end encryption.