#CyberFLASH: WhatsApp is going to share your phone number with Facebook

2014192-470940899js001-fackbook-acqGlobal messaging service WhatsApp says it will start sharing the phone numbers of its users with Facebook, its parent company. That means WhatsApp users could soon start seeing more targeted ads and Facebook friend suggestions on Facebook based on WhatsApp information — although not on the messaging service itself.

The move is a subtle but significant shift for WhatsApp, used by more than 1 billion people around the world. When it was acquired by Facebook for an eye-popping $21.8 billion US two years ago, executives promised privacy would be safeguarded.

“This is a strong-arm tactic on the part of Facebook,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy in Washington, D.C. “They continue on a campaign on to run roughshod on our privacy rights.”

WhatsApp is giving users a limited time to opt out of sharing their information with Facebook, although they must take the extra step of unchecking a box to do so. It also says Facebook won’t post phone numbers online or give them out to anyone.

Marketing messages on WhatsApp

But the giant social network has been looking for ways to make money from WhatsApp since it bought the service two years ago. At the same time, Facebook has pledged not to interfere with a longstanding promise by WhatsApp’s co-founders to respect users’ privacy and keep ads off its messaging platform.

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