WhatsApp Co-Founder and CEO Jan Koum responded to users’ privacy concerns following Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of the cross-platform messaging company last month with a blog post titled, “Setting the Record Straight.”
Since announcing our upcoming partnership with Facebook, we’ve been truly humbled by how much attention our story has received. As a company, we’re excited to continue focusing on offering as many people as possible the chance to stay connected with friends and loved ones, no matter who they are or where they live.
Unfortunately, there has also been a lot of inaccurate and careless information circulating about what our future partnership would mean for WhatsApp users’ data and privacy.
I’d like to set the record straight.
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 U.S. 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.
Make no mistake: Our future partnership with Facebook will not compromise the vision that brought us to this point. Our focus remains on delivering the promise of WhatsApp far and wide, so that people around the world have the freedom to speak their mind without fear.
Readers: What did you think of Koum’s blog post?