It is now a new year and it seems change is upon us sooner than we thought. The world’s most popular online messaging app is preparing to roll out advertisements in Whatsapp Status - a feature similar to Instagram or Facebook stories where user can post text, photos, videos or gifs that disappear after 24 hours.
This decision goes against promises made by original founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton in 2012 - that was before Facebook acquired the app in 2014. Ads appearing in the Status feature will be similar to ads in Instagram Stories - however, with Whatsapp’s end-to-end encryption, it means that both Whatsapp and Facebook are unable to read your messages. This will be the challenge in terms of pushing targeted ads for its users.
A recent Forbes interview with Brian Acton might give us some insight into this.
In the interview, Acton said that Facebook managers did question and “probe” for methods to offer analytical data to businesses on Whatsapp users in an encrypted environment.
Acton also said during the interview, “Targeted advertising is what makes me unhappy”, adding that Whatsapp’s motto had been “No ads, no games, no gimmicks”.
A clear contrast from Facebook that obtain a mass majority of its revenue from advertising.
However, Acton expressed some regret, saying “I sold my users’ privacy to a larger benefit. I made a choice and a compromise. And I live with that every day.” and continue to comment on Facebook that “They are businesspeople, they are good businesspeople. They just represent a set of business practices, principles and ethics, and policies that I don’t necessarily agree with.”
It is still unclear as to how Whatsapp will collect data on their users - but with parent company Facebook’s determination to push for advertising and their extensive data mining, we will certainly find out in the not-so distant future.