The reaction was swift and severe. People began closing their WhatsApp accounts and moving to competitors, especially Signal and Telegram. Soon after, Telegram announced it passed 500 million users, while Signal saw a 62-fold increase in downloads over the last week. Meanwhile, WhatsApp downloads experienced a 17% decline during the same period, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The backlash appears to have gotten WhatApp’s attention, even if it’s not fundamentally changing the company’s plans. In a blog post entitled “Giving More Time For Our Recent Update,” the company says this:
We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms. No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8. We’re also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp. We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15.
In other words, WhatsApp is essentially saying: ‘We’ve heard you. Trust us, it’s not what you think, and we’re going to give you more time to get accustomed to us doing what we’re going to do regardless of whether you like it or not.”
The problem with that approach? Trusting what Facebook says about privacy is like trusting the fox to guard the henhouse. The company has used up most people’s trust and goodwill after repeated and blatant privacy violations.