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article imageOn mounting privacy concerns, WhatsApp CEO defends acquisition

By Michael Krebs     Mar 25, 2014 in Internet
As the FTC begins reviewing the results of Facebook's proposed WhatsApp acquisition, WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum claimed privacy concerns in the resulting acquisition are "inaccurate and careless."
Following on the broader privacy and security conversations that have been developing in marketing circles and coming out of SXSW earlier this month, (for more on these topics, listen here for the podcast that parallels this article), WhatsApp's CEO Jan Koum spoke out on the question of Facebook's privacy concerns.
Koum shared his opinions on what Facebook's acquisition would potentially mean for privacy matters governing WhatsApp users, as The Guardian reported.
In a blog post last week, Koum characterized reports of future privacy depletion as "inaccurate and careless information." But is Koum in a position to make promises to current WhatsApp users?
"Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible," Koum wrote.
However, privacy is not necessarily a component of Facebook's DNA. Facebook's business model — as seen also with Instagram — is very much built on sharing user information with marketers seeking surgical demographic and psychographic targeting capabilities. Koum's motivation to ensure that the Facebook acquisition goes through is not necessarily in line with the interests of current WhatsApp users — and $19 billion is a large sum. Clearly, the Facebook acquisition will make Koum quite wealthy.
“We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address. We don’t know where you work. We don’t know your likes, what you search for on the internet or collect your GPS location. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that," Koum wrote.
None of this has been lost on privacy groups.
On Friday, The Hill reported that privacy groups have appealed to the Federal Trade Commission, saying that WhatsApp users do not want Facebook to acquire the service.
"WhatsApp users continue to object to the proposed acquisition," Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy contend.
The FTC is expected to examine the Facebook acquisition closely, but it remains unclear when the commission will arrive at its decision.
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