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Facebook’s WhatsApp Could Face Fresh Challenges


Oct. 2 2019, Published 1:57 p.m. ET

The US and the UK have reached a data access agreement set to affect social media companies such as Facebook (FB). The US-UK data access deal will require social media companies to provide police in both countries access to encrypted messages shared on their platforms, reports The Times.

Facebook has rejected the US-UK data access deal, according to Bloomberg. The company argues that providing backdoor access to encrypted messages would undermine users’ privacy and security.

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Facebook’s WhatsApp makes privacy a major selling point

WhatsApp operates an encrypted messaging platform, making it attractive to people who want to protect their privacy. In fact, WhatsApp’s encryption is a major selling point. Therefore, the US-UK deal threatens to weaken one of WhatsApp’s most attractive features.

Apple also prides itself as a privacy advocate. In 2016, Apple fought government attempts to force it to provide backdoor access to a shooting suspect’s locked iPhone. The FBI found a way to unlock the device without Apple’s assistance. While Facebook’s namesake platform has found itself at the center of several privacy scandals, WhatsApp has avoided such problems.

WhatsApp already under pressure

The US-UK data access deal could create another challenge for Facebook’s WhatsApp, which is already under pressure to curb fake news through its platform. In India, for instance, WhatsApp has limited message forwarding to fight the dissemination of fake news.

Data storage disputes are also presenting challenges. WhatsApp’s payment service launch has been delayed in India, WhatsApp’s largest market, because of a dispute over local data storage requirements. Facebook is facing similar challenges in Russia, where it risks fines and a ban if it cannot comply with the data rules.

Facebook gearing up to monetize WhatsApp

WhatsApp, one of the world’s most popular messaging apps, has more than 1.5 billion monthly users. And Facebook is just gearing up to begin monetizing WhatsApp’s massive audience—it plans to start selling WhatsApp ads next year.


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