Facebook's $16 billion buyout of WhatsApp last month was quickly followed by speculation about privacy for the app's more than 450 million users, given Facebook's own checkered history with privacy. Co-founder Jan Koum wrote on the WhatsApp blog today to "set the record straight," describing speculation about the acquisition undermining how the company treats user data as not only "baseless" but "irresponsible."
Koum writes that WhatsApp was built "around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible." Working under that philosophy, the app doesn't collect personal data like email addresses, birthdays, or locations — which Facebook already has access to, ironically — and Koum says the company has no plans to change that. In addition, the company has previously stated that it has no plans to share data with Facebook, and will remain completely autonomous. "If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it," he writes. "Speculation to the contrary isn’t just baseless and unfounded, it’s irresponsible."
The goal is to know as little about you as possible
While Koum may assert that the Facebook purchase is not cause for concern, WhatsApp has still had its share of privacy issues. Late last year, Utrecht University student Thijs Alkemade reportedly discovered a major cryptographic flaw in the app that would allows hackers to intercept and decrypt messages. The company, for its part, expressed that the flaw presented a more theoretical risk than an actual one at the time.