WhatsApp is using Status messages—its version of Stories— to try to reassure users about privacy

Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp has started posting Status messages to users about its “commitment to your privacy.” The in-app messages were appearing for members of The Verge staff in the US and UK on Saturday, and some users reported the Status messages — WhatsApp’s version of Snapchat Stories or Twitter Fleets—have been appearing in India for a while now.

“There’s been a lot of misinformation and confusion around our recent update and we want to help everyone understand the facts behind how WhatsApp protects people’s privacy and security,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said in an email to The Verge. “Going forward, we’re going to provide updates to people in the Status tab so people hear from WhatsApp directly. Our first update reaffirms that WhatsApp cannot see your personal messages, and neither can Facebook, because they are protected by end-to-end encryption.”

The messages read “One thing that isn’t new is our commitment to your privacy,” and a reminder that “WhatsApp can’t read or listen to your personal conversations as they’re end-to-end encrypted.”

WhatsApp adds Status updates about its privacy policy

The messages are part of a larger effort from WhatsApp to dispel misperceptions about an upcoming update to its privacy policy. The update is meant to explain how businesses that use WhatsApp for customer service may store logs of their chats on Facebook’s servers. WhatsApp previewed the changes to business chats in November. Given Facebook’s history of privacy blunders, however, users misinterpreted the changes to the privacy policy to mean WhatsApp would require sharing sensitive profile information with Facebook.

The company posted an FAQ page about the changes, and has pushed back the date the update will take effect from February to May. It issued a statement earlier this month addressing the confusion to reiterate what the new privacy policy would cover:

The update does not change WhatsApp’s data sharing practices with Facebook and does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family wherever they are in the world. WhatsApp remains deeply committed to protecting people’s privacy. We are communicating directly with users through WhatsApp about these changes so they have time to review the new policy over the course of the next month

Amid the ensuing confusion, rival messaging apps Signal and Telegram have both recently seen a surge in new users. Telegram said last week it’s added the ability for users to import their chat history from WhatsApp. And Signal has added new mainstream chat features like animated stickers and wallpapers to its app.

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