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What's up with WhatsApp?

Paul Brislen, Editor. 02 May 2018, 7:38 am

Jan Koum, the chief executive and co-founder of message app powerhouse WhatsApp has resigned, apparently over disagreements with Facebook over privacy and encryption.

Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014 for US$19 billion and Koum has served on the company's board since that time.

However, in a post on Facebook, Koum says he's taking some time off "to do things I enjoy outside of technology, such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee". The move could cost him up to US$1 billion in stock options with the company.

WhatsApp rose to fame as a messaging app that carried no advertising, secured user messages with the highest levels of consumer protection available and didn't share user data with third parties. It currently has around 1.5 billion users worldwide.

At the time of the sale, Koum told users, "You can still count on absolutely no ads interrupting your communication. There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product."

However, despite those assurances, new owner Facebook appears eager to enable businesses to reach users via WhatsApp and has introduced a number of free tools designed to do just that. In 2016, WhatsApp announced it would begin sharing data, including user phone numbers, with its parent company in a move that angered many.

Facebook is under the gun in the US and Europe for its involvement with Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that worked on the US presidential election and the UK's 'Brexit' campaign and which appears to have broken Facebook's rules regarding access to user data.

Meanwhile, Facebook is to launch a dating app.


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