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WhatsApp will let businesses chat with you in advertising push

Messaging platform begins plan to monetise its 1 billion users

Whatsapp on a phone

WhatsApp will arrange for businesses to chat with users on its messaging platform in the next few months, as it makes dramatic changes to its terms and conditions.

The first update to its smallprint in four years sees WhatsApp move to monetise its one billion-strong userbase, after Facebook paid 11.2 billion for the company in 2014.

That involves tests before the end of the year to see how businesses can engage with users of the platform, a shift in strategy WhatsApp first signalled some months ago.

"As we announced earlier this year, we want to explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you too, while still giving you an experience without third-party banner ads and spam," WhatsApp's blog post today read.

"Whether it's hearing from your bank about a potentially fraudulent transaction, or getting notified by an airline about a delayed flight, many of us get this information elsewhere, including in text messages and phone calls."

It explained the terms and conditions needed updating so it can "test these features in the next several months".

WhatsApp's focus is on avoiding "a spammy experience" by making sure people are only contacted by businesses they already know or who they may be interested in.

It pitched the types of communications people can expect as necessary and welcome, such as "order, transaction, and appointment information, delivery and shipping notifications, product and service updates, and marketing", according to WhatsApp's terms and conditions.

It is not yet clear how WhatsApp will help businesses connect with people, but it will also pass people's phone numbers to Facebook, in order for the social network to serve up better targeted ads.

WhatsApp's blog post read: "By coordinating more with Facebook, we'll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp. And by connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you've never heard of."

However, the content of users' encrypted messages will not be shared with Facebook, and neither will WhatsApp be able to read them, the company confirmed.

Nor will it share people's phone numbers with advertisers rather, it hopes by giving Facebook this data that it will be able to avoid spamming users with irrelevant advertising that pushes them away from the platform.

WhatsApp did say users who disagree with the new terms of service have 30 days to opt out of sharing their data with Facebook.

The terms and conditions read: "If you are an existing user, you can choose not to have your WhatsApp account information shared with Facebook to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences. Existing users who accept our updated Terms and Privacy Policy will have an additional 30 days to make this choice by going to Settings > Account."

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