The billionaire chief executive of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, is planning to leave the company after clashing with its parent company, Facebook, over the popular messaging service’s strategy and Facebook’s attempts to use its personal data and weaken its encryption.
This means a loss of one of the strongest advocates for privacy inside Facebook.
Facebook has battled European regulators over a plan to use WhatsApp user data, including phone numbers, to develop products and target ads. The plan is suspended, but WhatsApp said last week it still wanted to move forward with it eventually.
The independence and protection of its users’ data is a core tenet of WhatsApp that Koum and his co-founder promised to preserve when they sold their tiny start-up to Facebook. It doubled down on its pledge by adding encryption in 2016.
At the time of the acquisition, Koum and Acton said Facebook had assured them that WhatsApp could remain an independent service and would not share its data with Facebook.
“Part of Facebook’s success has been to digest acquisitions, successfully monetise them, and integrate them into their advertising machine,” said Daniel Ives, chief strategy officer and head of technology research for research firm GBH Insights. But WhatsApp has been more challenging because of resistance from the founders, he said. “This was a massive culture clash.”
It remains to be seen what impact Koum’s departure will have on the privacy of WhatsApp users. Perhaps even more worryingly, will we also begin to see the sort of censorship that Facebook has been pursuing on its main website?
Disclaimer: The content of this post reflects the views of the author, and not necessarily those of MBGA News.
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