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WhatsApp privacy changes and what it means for your practice

We’ve had quite a few questions from Practices we work with asking about the upcoming Privacy changes that’s WhatsApp is planning and what this means for their business.

There’s been a lot on the news regarding these privacy changes which some believe to increase informational and personal data sharing between WhatsApp and Facebook, which has resulted in millions of users flocking to other messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram.

If you are concerned, we don’t blame you. Recent data breaches and the scandal surrounding Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica revelation means that a lot of us are more skeptical of these big companies, the data about us that they hold and what they do with it.

This most recent change in privacy policies has cause such a backlash of concern amongst the general public that it has caused WhatsApp to delay the changes until 15th May, giving you time to work out what is best for you.

But where do you even start? We know that it can be confusing delving through T&Cs and privacy policies of big corporates such as Facebook (who own WhatsApp) and to be honest, we also know you just don’t have time for that. So, we have done it for you and outlined all you need to know below.


Changes to WhatsApp Privacy Policy

Essentially, it’s been confirmed that nothing is changing for personal users. If you have WhatsApp on your phone and use it to message your friends and family then according to WhatsApp absolutely nothing will change for you with regards to your privacy policy. We’ve outlined this below:

  • Your messages will remain encrypted end to end.
  • Neither WhatsApp or Facebook can read your messages or listen to your calls.
  • Neither WhatsApp or Facebook are keeping a log of your WhatsApp calls and messages.
  • If you Share your Location via WhatsApp neither WhatsApp or Facebook can see it.
  • Group messaging, like one to one messaging is private
  • If you require additional privacy you can set messages to disappear from chats after you send them.


All the big changes are reserved for their Business messaging and how they work with Facebook, which affects you as a business and client/customer in the following two ways:

  • If you see an Ad on Facebook, there may be button to allow you to chat with that business via WhatsApp. This button will open WhatsApp on your phone, and the way in which you interact with these will be recorded and used by Facebook to further personalize the Ads you see whilst on their platform.
    • An example of what this means for your veterinary practice is that, if your clients are interacting with your business in this way, it is possible that Facebook will use this information to allow other practices to target your clients (or potential new clients).
    • This information will be stored by Facebook, who have a notoriously bad track record for data privacy.

  • Some businesses use hosting services to manage client/customer communication, and this is a service that Facebook offer. Regardless how you communicate with that business, phone, email or WhatApp, it seems that with these changes Facebook will be able to see all communication between you and that business and use it for their own marketing purposes (including advertising on Facebook)
    • An example of what this means for your veterinary practice is that, if you are using Facebook hosting services and having conversation with clients regarding a specific medication for their pet, then it is possible that Facebook could then start showing your clients Ads for an alternative treatment.
    • Another example is that if you are interacting with a business (perhaps a supplier) that uses Facebook hosting service, private conversation regarding purchases may be stored by Facebook to be used their own vaguely defined ‘marketing purposes’ including but not limited to Facebook Ads.
    • Unlike interactions with Ads, this communication is likely to be a lot more in depth, in fact it will span the entirety of the interactions, between business and client/customer.
    • Again, its important to remember that Facebooks have a notoriously bad track record for data privacy.


Our Recommendations

There is a school of thought that would argue that the likelihood is that these big companies already have an incredible amount of data on all of us, and that these changes are just a drop in the ocean, seemingly harmless in comparison.

However, as a rule of thumb we have always actively discouraging our customers from using WhatsApp for any business interactions at all and will continue to do so after the privacy changes in May. Here’s why:

  • WhatsApp actually prohibit business use (WhatsApp for Business is different and used in a different way), if you read their terms of service they state “You will not use (or assist others in using) our Services in ways that: (f) involve any non-personal use of our Services unless otherwise authorized by us.”
  • WhatsApp is actually not GDPR compliant if used in a way that is not intended e.g installing it on an employee’s phone to communicate with staff and clients. If you communicate without official consent you are in breach.
  • WhatsApp does not give you control of the data e.g. if an employee goes rogue, they have all your employee and customer contact info and you cannot do anything about it.
  • WhatsApp have the right to terminate your account at any time, meaning you could lose all your data, which would not be great for your business.
  • If you want to step away from the platform, you cannot revoke WhatsApp’s access to business information, meaning that you just don’t have control over the data.


If you are currently using WhatsApp for communication amongst your staff, we would suggest making use of a different App which gives you more control over the data being exchanged. Especially as the likelihood is that your staff will be using WhatsApp on their personal phones.

Ensure that you choose a solution that is appropriate for the situation if you plan to use it for comms in a business then use tools like Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Slack etc. These tools are designed for the purpose of intercompany communication and so much more, most importantly they are designed for business use. You have your own business tenant (private area to your business), a lot more secure and you retain complete control even if an employee was to leave.


Essentially, if you can avoid using WhatsApp for business then do. However, we understand that this might not be possible for everyone. If this is the case for you then ensure that you are using the correct business version (e.g. WhatsApp for Business, do not just have WhatsApp installed on someone’s phone as this produces huge privacy issues and great security risk as the content is associated to that specific mobile device which means if it is lost or stolen you are in trouble). Most importantly, take the time to really understand the changes to the privacy policy as outlined above, and how they affect your business, your staff and your clients.