Amid privacy controversies, WhatsApp founder departs Facebook

WhatsApp founder Jan Koum is leaving the social media giant, reportedly because of disagreements over encryption on the messaging platform.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

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Amid ongoing scrutiny over Facebook's privacy and security standards, WhatsApp founder Jan Koum announced Monday that he's leaving the company.

"It is time for me to move on," Koum wrote in a Facebook post. "I'm leaving at a time when people are using WhatsApp in more ways than I could have imagined. The team is stronger than ever and it'll continue to do amazing things."

Read also: On Facebook, Zuckerberg gets privacy and you get nothing

Koum added, " I'll still be cheering WhatsApp on -- just from the outside."

However, according to The Washington Post, Koum is leaving over disagreements with Facebook executives interested in weakening WhatsApp's encryption in order to more easily monetize the messaging platform. WhatsApp added end-to-end encryption to the platform in 2016.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote a direct response to Koum's Facebook post, pushing back against the suggestion that encryption will be weakened on WhatsApp.

"I will miss working so closely with you," Zuckerberg wrote. "I'm grateful for everything you'd done to help connect the world, and for everything you've taught me, including about encryption and its ability to take power from centralized systems and put it back in people's hands. Those values will always be at the heart of WhatsApp."

According to the Post, Koum will also step down from Facebook's board of directors.

Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, when the platform had 450 million users. It now has 1.5 billion monthly users, making it the largest messaging platform in the world. However, Facebook has had an easier time monetizing its other messaging service, Facebook Messenger.

Read also: Data firm leaks 48 million user profiles it scraped from Facebook

Meanwhile, the clash in values between Facebook and WhatsApp have been readily apparent. The WhatsApp founders initially promised it would not share its information with Facebook after the acquisition. Yet last year, the European Commission fined Facebook for providing "misleading information" regarding the WhatsApp takeover, after WhatsApp changed its privacy policy to let its parent company gain access to its users' information in order to better target ads.

Then, in November, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton left Facebook and has become strongly critical of the company, joining the #DeleteFacebook campaign that's gained steam in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal.

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