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Amid pushback over platform-merging update, WhatsApp backpedals on threat to lobotomize messenger for refuseniks

Amid pushback over platform-merging update, WhatsApp backpedals on threat to lobotomize messenger for refuseniks
WhatsApp functionality will not be limited for users who did not accept the messenger’s new controversial rules, the company said. The rules change, which benefit owner Facebook’s monetization, sparked a global outcry.

The updated rules were first announced in January and came into force on May 15. They allow WhatsApp parent company Facebook to use data collected through the messenger program to be utilized on its other platforms, such as the social network itself or Instagram. Facebook’s business model is to profile users and target them with suitable ads on behalf of paying customers.

Users who continued to use WhatsApp without accepting the new rules were facing a persistent message demanding they do so or face increasingly restricted functionality. They would be initially blocked from accessing the chat list, and later would not be able to accept calls and messages altogether, rendering the app absolutely useless.

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The arm-twisting tactics added to the fury that many people had about Facebook’s push to make more profit off the popular platform it bought in 2014. On Friday, WhatsApp changed its mind and will no longer threatens to lobotomize the app for the refuseniks.

“We currently have no plans for these reminders to become persistent and to limit the functionality of the app,” a help page explaining the rules update now says. The backpedaling is explained by WhatsApp thus: “The majority of users who have seen the update have accepted it.”

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After the new rules were announced, there was a reported mass exodus of the privacy-concerned part of its two-billion strong user base to alternative platforms such as Signal and Telegram.

However, the change could not be rolled out globally due to legal restrictions. In Germany and Turkey, the update was blocked by the authorities for allegedly violating local rules. A German court said WhatsApp had breached personal data privacy laws, while, in Turkey, the update was flagged by a local competition regulator, which said it gave Facebook undue power in the market.

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