6 years ago, when WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook, its CEO, Jan Koum, committed to never introduce ads on the platform, with a rare sense of conviction:
Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing.
WhatsApp will remain autonomous and operate independently. You can continue to enjoy the service for a nominal fee. You can continue to use WhatsApp no matter where in the world you are, or what smartphone you’re using. And you can still count on absolutely no ads interrupting your communication. There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product.
Today, WhatsApp posted newly planned Terms and Services, which among other things, makes it clear they are introducing ads in one way or the other:
Ways To Improve Our Services.
We analyze how you make use of WhatsApp, in order to improve our Services, including helping businesses who use WhatsApp measure the effectiveness and distribution of their services and messages. WhatsApp uses the information it has and also works with partners, service providers, and affiliated companies to do this.
While this has been known in the past, especially after the exit of Whatsapp co-founder Brian Acton in connection to monetizating the messanging app, the form of how that may look is getting clearer. It is worth noting that the $1 annual fee was never floated as a serious path to keep the popular messaging app running without the surveillance.
This is another concrete reminder to treat privacy promises rooted on norms as mere mirage. With financial domain being Facebook’s targeted frontier, we do not have the requisite social infrastructure to limit the coming harm to local economies.