Since its inception, WhatsApp has been advocating itself as an advertisement-free platform that required no personal information such as age, birth date, address, religion, sex, etc. but only the phone number to create free account. However, this is soon going to change as the instant messaging app owned by Facebook is reportedly mulling to monetise the platform by showing advertisements based on users’ interest and browsing history, according to a tweet by WABetaInfo.
WhatsApp is one of the instant messaging platforms that uses end-to-end encryption to secure chat and user information. However, to show relevant advertisement in the app, the company might have to access user data such as interests, search history, GPS locations, etc. Playing around the platform’s security to show ads and a new business model for monetisation is alleged to be one of the reasons of discontent that led to WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum resign at the beginning of this year.
In a blog post, dated early 2014, after WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook, Koum wrote:
“Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible: You don't have to give us your name and we don't ask for your email address. 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.
If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it.
Instead, we are forming a partnership that would allow us to continue operating independently and autonomously. Our fundamental values and beliefs will not change. Our principles will not change. Everything that has made WhatsApp the leader in personal messaging will still be in place. Speculation to the contrary isn’t just baseless and unfounded, it’s irresponsible. It has the effect of scaring people into thinking we’re suddenly collecting all kinds of new data. That’s just not true, and it’s important to us that you know that.”
However, soon after the acquisition, the other co-founder Brian Acton left the organisation. Recently, in an interview with Forbes, Acton alleged that Zuckerberg was in a rush to make money from the messaging service and undermine elements of its encryption technology, CNBC reported.
This is what Koum and Acton believed about advertisement business back in 2012:
“Advertising isn't just the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought. At every company that sells ads, a significant portion of their engineering team spends their day tuning data mining, writing better code to collect all your personal data, upgrading the servers that hold all the data and making sure it's all being logged and collated and sliced and packaged and shipped out... And at the end of the day the result of it all is a slightly different advertising banner in your browser or on your mobile screen.
Remember, when advertising is involved you the user are the product.”