We want to address some rumors and be 100% clear we continue to protect your private messages with end-to-end encryption. pic.twitter.com/6qDnzQ98MP— WhatsApp (@WhatsApp) January 12, 2021
And WhatsApp has continually assured users that if they had already opted-out of data sharing with Facebook, their wishes would be respected. It told Ars Technica that the policy change was mostly prompted because of a push to work with businesses -- presumably as part of the platform’s plan to own online commerce. But the company has reiterated that, broadly speaking, there’s little for users to worry about, and that there’s nothing dystopian or malign going on.
Verification codes are currently delayed across several providers because so many new people are trying to join Signal right now (we can barely register our excitement). We are working with carriers to resolve this as quickly as possible. Hang in there.— Signal (@signalapp) January 7, 2021
Unfortunately, the way the changes were messaged -- with no option to disagree beyond shutting down your account -- has raised hackles around the world. BBC News reports that rival messaging apps like Signal and Telegram have seen surges of interest as people look for alternatives. On January 7th, Signal announced that it had slowed down the release of verification codes as “so many new people are trying to join Signal right now.”
It’s not clear if this new intervention will be enough to reassure users that WhatsApp remains safe and secure for them to use. It’ll be interesting to see if the push away from the platform causes any sort of drop in the company’s user metrics over the next few months.