A recent $19 billion purchase has turned more than a few heads, and rightfully so. Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp is one of the largest acquisitions ever (not to mention the sum is more than the gross domestic capital of Iceland).
Money talks. So what is this $19 billion transaction saying?
A range of responses to the news has surfaced, with each one offering a different take. Here’s a roundup of what you need to know about Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp, and what the new ownership means for the future of private communication and your personal data.
Execs claim “nothing” will change
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, and Jan Koum, founder of WhatsApp, both insist that WhatsApp’s messaging service will be separately run from social media giant Facebook. In a blog post on WhatsApp’s website, Koum states, “Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing. WhatsApp will remain autonomous and operate independently.”
So what’s the point of combining forces? Zuckerberg points to the companies’ shared goal of connecting people around the world. But this heartfelt pursuit is certainly not the whole story.
While WhatsApp is unfamiliar to many in the United States, the app has experienced wild success internationally, especially in places like Europe, Central America, and South America.
It’s no wonder WhatsApp caught Zuckerberg’s eye: the company is on track to exceed 1 billion users worldwide, and is growing at a rate faster than that of Facebook. And there are deeper reasons behind the purchase that take a little more digging to discover.
WhatsApp privacy stance—and the reality behind it
For many WhatsApp users, the news of Facebook’s acquisition produced a panic over WhatsApp privacy. Facebook is notorious for its lax and sometimes invasive privacy policies, in contrast to the pro-privacy, anti-advertising stance WhatsApp has taken from day one.
Much of the talk about WhatsApp’s privacy focus has centered on Koum, who was born in Ukraine and experienced firsthand the pressures of surveillance imposed by government.
Koum moved to the United States when he was still a kid, and he says that growing up under a totalitarian government made user privacy a main concern when he co-founded WhatsApp.
The other side of the WhatsApp privacy story is that, in practice, the app has overlooked some serious privacy issues. For example, a design flaw discovered in 2013 allowed WhatsApp exchanges to be intercepted and decrypted.
Thilo Weichert, a German security watchdog, has been particularly vocal about telling WhatsApp users to switch to more secure messaging services now that the app is being bought by Facebook. The fight between German authorities and Facebook over Facebook’s privacy policies continues today.
WhatsApp alternatives: should you make the shift?
It would be fairly easy to take Wiechert’s advice to switch to a more secure messaging app, as there are plenty of alternatives to choose from. Threema, Wickr, Telegram, viber, and kakao talk are a few.
Messaging apps WeChat and LINE already have strong user bases in Asia, where WhatsApp’s popularity is paled by competitors.
The possible effects of Facebook’s ownership on WhatsApp’s privacy has already caused thousands of users to download different messaging platforms. Threema even doubled its user base the day after the WhatsApp-Facebook deal was announced.
But if you’re a loyal WhatsApp user, or hope to become one in order to see what all the hype is about, never fear—Abine has a solution.
DoNotTrackMe’s Masked Phone numbers are fully compatible with WhatsApp. This means that you can use the app in every capacity without giving out your personal phone number and without jeopardizing your personal privacy. Here’s how it works:
- Download WhatsApp
- Retrieve your Masked Phone number from your DoNotTrackMe Privacy Dashboard
- Create and confirm your WhatsApp account with your Masked Phone number
- Verify your WhatsApp account through the link you receive in their text message
- Enjoy WhatsApp’s service, without worrying about WhatsApp (or Facebook) having your phone number
The $19 billion Facebook paid for WhatsApp sends a clear message about what Facebook values most: owning data and controlling communication.
Consider this. WhatsApp currently has around 450 million active monthly users. This means Facebook paid around $42 per head (or, as one author notes, $21 per eyeball) to acquire the app. If you use WhatsApp, Facebook is investing $42 in your data, and is expecting that value to grow.