If you are a WhatsApp user, you have been asked to accept the new privacy terms if you wish to continue using WhatsApp from 8 February 2021. This assumed take it or leave it ‘option’ (on the face of it) seems to be generating an understandable reaction of fear about the integrity, privacy, and security of our personal information that we share on WhatsApp.
For the layman who is not familiar with technical legal terms, these ‘ultimatum’ type communications can be intimidating. However, this food for thought has come to the table at a particularly opportune time, given the imminent enforcement provisions of the POPIA in June.
The communication from WhatsApp speaks to the requirement of transparency and openness from responsible persons or operators (as defined in the POPIA and GDPR, respectively). Instead of being kept in the dark about how our information is used and shared, WhatsApp is promoting our rights as data subjects to understand how our data will be processed and shared with third parties (i.e., Facebook and its affiliates) and make an informed choice – to consent or dissent. As such, the dilemma need not be so; instead, let’s take this opportunity to empower ourselves in knowing what’s up with our data.
On that note:
The new policy states that:
“As part of the Facebook family of companies, WhatsApp receives information from and shares information with this family of companies. We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings.” 
Firstly, we need to understand what types or categories of personal information WhatsApp intends to share with its new family member, Facebook. The good news is that the end-to-end encryption feature of WhatsApp retains its integrity. Simply put, your X-rated chats or condemnation of your mother-in-law is not “collected” or stored by WhatsApp and will not be shared. The type of personal information that WhatsApp intends to share is data which, if you have a Facebook account, is likely to be already stored and processed by Facebook by virtue of you having voluntarily provided it. This personal information includes contact numbers, IP addresses, profile names and pictures, status updates, and diagnostic or meta-data (such as when and for how long a user was online).
So, what’s really new then?
Written by Alexis Levor.
Alexis is a senior associate at O’Reilly Law, specializing in regulatory law.
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 The Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013.
 The General Data Protection Regulation.
 Supra Note 4.