Unpacking WhatsApp’s privacy label in the Apple App Store

Apple recently required that all apps distributed via their App Store display details designed to show people how their data may be used. We support transparency, which is why we already provide a way for people to download information associated with their account. We go to great lengths to build WhatsApp in a way that protects the privacy of our users and make them aware of this at the start of every conversation.
We deployed end-to-end encryption throughout our app in 2016, meaning that calls, messages, photos, videos, and voice notes to friends and family are only shared with the intended recipient; no one else (not even us) can read them. With end-to-end encryption, messages are not stored on our servers after they're delivered, and in the normal course of operating our services we do not retain a record of the people you may message.
We must collect some information to provide a reliable global communications service. As a matter of principle, we minimize the categories of data that we collect. For the limited kinds of data we do collect, we take measures to restrict access to that information. For example, while you may grant us access to your contacts to help deliver the messages you send, we do not share contact lists with anyone, including Facebook for its own use. We provide further explanations throughout our Help Center, Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service.
Below we unpack the WhatsApp label displayed in Apple’s App Store and provide additional information about data use that is not protected by end-to-end encryption. It’s important to understand that several of the items below only apply to optional features that people can elect to use; we do not automatically collect all of the items below. Many of these optional features, such as shopping and payments, are unique to WhatsApp and not offered by other end-to-end encryption messaging providers.
  • Contact information: When you sign up for WhatsApp, we receive your phone number and rely on it to deliver messages to your device. If you want to enable two-step verification, you can choose to share your email address with WhatsApp, though it is not required. You can also choose to email WhatsApp for support as well.
  • Identifiers: We associate your phone number as your WhatsApp user ID and are aware of the IP address from which your phone connects to WhatsApp.
  • Coarse location: While we do not ever see your precise location, we are aware of your IP address and country code from your phone number.
  • Contacts: To make it easier for you to message your friends and family, when you sign up for WhatsApp we ask for access to your phone numbers to see which of those numbers are verified in our system. If you choose to do so, the app displays the names you choose from your address book and we do not share any of this information with Facebook. Learn more here.
  • Usage data: To operate a reliable global service, we must understand whether features are performant, though we are testing a way to do this in a de-identified fashion. To prevent abuse we take action against accounts engaged in bulk or automated messaging, which has been particularly important during elections where certain groups may attempt to send messages at scale. We also sponsor marketing campaigns, including using Apple’s ad network, to reach people who do not currently use WhatsApp. We also communicate to users inside the app about new product features, and updates and to provide user education.
  • Diagnostics: Should you encounter an issue using WhatsApp we receive crash logs so we can fix bugs and improve our service.
Additional options we provide:
  • Financial information: In countries where you can send payments via WhatsApp, your card or bank information is needed to complete a transaction.
  • Purchases: If you choose to use Facebook Shops on WhatsApp, we are able to understand your shopping activity, such as the products you view and purchase, and we share this information with Facebook since Shops is a Facebook product. This means that product browsing and purchasing experience within Shops may influence what you see in Shops on other Facebook products. Before using Facebook Shops on WhatsApp, we inform you of this and ask for your agreement.
  • User content: We receive your “about” information as well as profile photo, group names, group profile photo and group descriptions. We rely on this information to prevent abuse, including banning accounts that are sharing child exploitative imagery. Additionally, if you choose to report an issue to WhatsApp, we receive what you have chosen to send us.
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