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Today is the deadline: What exactly happens to WhatsApp on May 15th?

There has been excitement about the planned new data protection regulations on WhatsApp since the beginning of the year. After initial criticism and a churn of users, Facebook's chat app postponed the launch from February to May. The changes are now being implemented more gently.

On WhatsApp, new data protection conditions apply from this Saturday. Critics warn of new possibilities for data exchange with the parent company Facebook. WhatsApp denies this and emphasizes that it is about laying the basis for more communication with companies. At the same time, the Hamburg data protection officer Johannes Caspar wants to have a say. Details in questions and answers:

What happens on May 15th?

WhatsApp wants to put its new data protection regulations into effect. Contrary to previous announcements, users who have not agreed to the update should initially continue to be able to access the chat service without restrictions. A few weeks later, however, the range of functions will gradually shrink.

What do these users then have to expect?

First of all, they will no longer be able to access their chat list, as WhatsApp explained in a blog post. You will then be able to accept incoming audio and video calls and answer chat messages via notifications. A few more weeks later, WhatsApp will then neither send calls nor messages to the users' smartphones. During this whole time, the users should be reminded to agree to the changes.

What are the changes about?

WhatsApp always emphasized that the update does not provide for any additional data transfer to Facebook. The changes are primarily about creating better ways to communicate with companies. The end-to-end encryption, with which chat content is only visible in clear text to the participating users, will not be shaken either. Outside the EU, some WhatsApp user data has been flowing to Facebook since 2016, for advertising purposes or to improve products.

At the same time, WhatsApp itself emphasized that the exchange of messages with companies is structured differently than with family or friends. "When you communicate with a company over the phone, email or WhatsApp, they can use the information from those interactions with you for their own marketing purposes. This can also include advertising on Facebook," it said. The IT security company Malwarebytes pointed out that in this way such user data can ultimately also come to Facebook.

Why the excitement now - also in Germany?

Since the changes were announced in January, warnings of increased data exchange with parent company Facebook have been causing unrest among users - despite WhatsApp's denials. There was criticism, users migrated to other messengers. The company then postponed the introduction of the new rules originally planned for February by a good three months. In the meantime, the Hamburg data protection activist Johannes Caspar has also become active. However, he can only intervene for a limited period because the Irish data protection authority is responsible for Facebook.

What does data protection officer Caspar do?

The Hamburg data protection agency has issued an order prohibiting Facebook from using WhatsApp data for its own purposes. He warns that the new rules opened the door to more data sharing with other Facebook companies. WhatsApp counters that the order is based "on a fundamental misunderstanding of the goal and consequences of the update" and will not stop the introduction of the new rules.

Why does Facebook accept all the trouble?

The world's largest online network took over WhatsApp in 2014 for around 22 billion dollars in the end. With this purchase price, Facebook took a potential rival from the market, but the service has so far contributed little to net income. At times there was thought about advertising in the "Status" area of ​​WhatsApp, where users can share photos and videos with their contacts for a day. The idea was then put on hold. The current plan is to make money when businesses communicate with their customers on WhatsApp - the rule change is a requirement for that.

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