Use WhatsApp? Get ready to receive marketing messages from firms

WhatsApp is going to let businesses send you marketing messages with offers -- just don't call them ads.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

WhatsApp users could soon be getting message from businesses as well as their contacts.

Image: Hale Erguvenc, Getty Images

WhatsApp has updated its privacy policy to clear the way for businesses to begin sending messages to its one billion users.

The Facebook-owned messaging app is making good on a plan announced earlier this year to monetize the platform without display advertising, but instead by connecting businesses with users. To enable this, it is updating its privacy policy for the first time in four years.

"We want to explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you too, while still giving you an experience without third-party banner ads and spam," WhatsApp announced on Thursday.

WhatsApp highlights that messages could include alerts from banks about potential fraudulent transactions, or messages from airlines about changed flight schedules, which are otherwise delivered via SMS or calls.

However, the new terms of service also indicates that WhatsApp users could also receive messages that contain marketing, though the company draws a distinction between these and ads.

"Messages you may receive containing marketing could include an offer for something that might interest you. We do not want you to have a spammy experience; as with all of your messages, you can manage these communications, and we will honor the choices you make," WhatsApp says in the new policy.

Other message types include expect transaction details, appointment information, delivery and shipping notifications, and product and service updates.

WhatsApp also announced that it will be working more closely with Facebook in the coming months, including linking users' phone numbers with Facebook's systems in order for Facebook to deliver more targeted ads based on WhatsApp activity.

"By coordinating more with Facebook, we'll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp. And by connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you've never heard of."

However, there is an escape clause if users don't want to have their WhatsApp account information shared with Facebook. After existing users accept WhatsApp's new terms and privacy policy they will have 30 days to choose whether their information is shared with Facebook. This option will be available in the Account section under Settings.

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