A little less than a month ago, Facebook announced that it is acquiring WhatsApp for about $19 billion. There have been countless articles about what this deal will mean for WhatsApp users in the meantime, and apparently WhatsApp hasn't been too fond of a lot of that coverage.
CEO and co-founder Jan Koum took the company blog today to express this frustration, and "set the record straight". There has been, he says, a lot of "inaccurate and careless" information spread about what the deal means for user privacy. Here's an excerpt:
Above all else, I want to make sure you understand how deeply I value the principle of private communication. For me, this is very personal. I was born in Ukraine, and grew up in the USSR during the 1980s. One of my strongest memories from that time is a phrase I’d frequently hear when my mother was talking on the phone: “This is not a phone conversation; I’ll tell you in person.” The fact that we couldn’t speak freely without the fear that our communications would be monitored by KGB is in part why we moved to the United States when I was a teenager.
Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible: You don’t have to give us your name and we don’t ask for your email address. We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address. We don’t know where you work. We don’t know your likes, what you search for on the internet or collect your GPS location. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that.
If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it. Instead, we are forming a partnership that would allow us to continue operating independently and autonomously. Our fundamental values and beliefs will not change. Our principles will not change. Everything that has made WhatsApp the leader in personal messaging will still be in place. Speculation to the contrary isn’t just baseless and unfounded, it’s irresponsible. It has the effect of scaring people into thinking we’re suddenly collecting all kinds of new data. That’s just not true, and it’s important to us that you know that.
He goes on to say that the vision that got the app to where it is will not be compromised by its "partnership" with Facebook (they keep calling it a partnership).
By the way, when the deal was announced, the company said it had over 450 million monthly users, with 70% active on a given day. More impressive yet is that messaging volume, according to the company, was approaching the entire global telecom SMS volume while continuing to add over a million new users per day.
Image via iTunes