WhatsApp founder Jan Koum has spoken out against what he calls "careless and inaccurate" reports about changes to the app's privacy policies following its acquisition by Facebook.
On Monday, Koum wrote a post on the app's blog reassuring users that the acquisition would not change WhatsApp's core policies. "Above all else, I want to make sure you understand how deeply I value the principle of private communication," wrote Koum. He then told readers a story his childhood in Ukraine in the 1980's where he distinctly remembers his mother frequently saying, "This is not a phone conversation; I'll tell you in person." This, Koum explains, was because he, and many others, feared speaking on the phone freely in fear that their communications were being monitored by KGB. This was one of the reasons Koum and his family left Ukraine for the United States when he was a teenager. "Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible...," wrote Koum. "If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn't have done it."
Privacy advocates have reached out to US regulators asking them to block the acquisition. They claim that Facebook has a history of promising not to use user data for advertising, only to turn around and do just that. In a filing with the Federal Trade Commission, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy argued, "The proposed acquisition will therefore violate WhatsApp users' understanding of their exposure to online advertising and constitutes an unfair and deceptive trade practice, subject to investigation by the Federal Trade Commission." The FTC has not said whether it will open an investigation, but if Koum's stance is accurate with Facebook's intention, one does not appear to be necessary.
Photo credit: Jan Persiel via Flickr