A re-cap of the situation – back in January, WhatsApp announced a coming update to its privacy terms which would mean that some data from people’s interactions with businesses within WhatsApp could be shared with parent company Facebook. At no point was people’s personal messaging information or interaction data in WhatsApp, which is end-to-end encrypted, set to be shared between the two companies, but either way, the announcement sparked a major backlash, which saw millions of people downloading alternative messaging apps like Signal and Telegram in an attempt to move away from the app.
The user response must have been significant, because two weeks after the initial announcement, WhatsApp decided to delay the change in order to give the company more time to explain the update, and to better prepare users for what was happening.
Then, early last month, WhatsApp started showing users in-app alerts once again, notifying them of the coming change, though with clarified wording and more specific explainers.
WhatsApp had clearly hoped that these more specific prompts would alleviate concerns, but evidently, they did not.
Last month, the Indian Government called on the messaging giant to withdraw the change entirely, citing concerns about data sharing, while German regulators also called for an EU-wide ban on the update, questioning the implications of its new data-sharing processes.
India is a particularly significant concern for Facebook in this respect, with the company planning for major expansion in the region, which is also home to WhatsApp’s largest single-nation user base (530+ million users).
But Facebook needs to implement the update to take the next steps forward with its WhatsApp monetization plans, so it subsequently launched its own counter legal action against the Indian Government last week in order to push through the change.
Which is not good for Facebook’s longer-term prospects in the region. Which is why this new update makes some sense.
Last week, WhatsApp made a change to the wording of the terms around its coming update, which effectively eliminates any form of user penalty for not accepting the change.
When WhatsApp announced its second attempt at rolling out the change, it explained that:
Those limitations, which would escalate over time, were set to include:
- Inability to access your chat list
- Removal of the ability to receive incoming calls or notifications
- Eventually, WhatsApp “will stop sending messages and calls to your phone”
But now, WhatsApp is removing these penalties entirely.
In the newly worded explainer, WhatsApp says that:
“Considering the majority of users who have seen the update have accepted, we’ll continue to display a notification in WhatsApp providing more information about the update and reminding those who haven’t had a chance to do so to review and accept. We currently have no plans for these reminders to become persistent and to limit the functionality of the app.”
So no penalties for not accepting. If you don’t agree, you don’t have to accept the new terms, and there will be no impact on your account.
Which is a significant step back – and maybe, that’ll be enough to placate Indian officials and avoid further tensions that could derail Facebook’s future plans in the region.
“There will also be other opportunities for those who haven’t accepted the updates to do so directly in the app. For example, when someone reregisters for WhatsApp or if someone wants to use a feature that’s related to this update for the first time.”
So WhatsApp has quietly watered down its potential penalties to avoid further conflicts, though only after getting ‘the majority of users’ to accept its new terms under threat of app deactivation.
Will that be enough to alleviate all concerns – and will regulators and officials be satisfied with Facebook’s business practices in this respect, in essentially using bully tactics, even if they subsequently walked them back?
It’s an interesting implementation, which underlines the rising tension between online platforms and various government authorities over the use of user data, which looks set to remain a key point of contention for the immediate future at least.
But for now, WhatsApp users will not be obligated to accept the new policy. Until, at some stage, they are.
Which could be the next point of conflict for the app.
Meta Announces New Privacy-Focused Ad Targeting Solutions, Improvements in Automated Targeting
With Apple’s ATT data privacy update changing the game for app-based advertisers, Meta has been one of the biggest losers, with the company projecting up to $10 billion in revenue loss this year alone based on the amount of users opting out of data tracking in its apps.
Of course, part of that is due to Meta’s poor reputation on data privacy and protection, with the high-profile Cambridge Analytica case, in particular, shining a light on the platform’s past lax privacy measures, which have led to misuse.
But Meta has evolved its processes, and it’s now looking to ensure that it’s providing more data-protective solutions that will help advertisers maximize their campaigns, while also aligning with broader industry shifts.
On this front, Meta has today outlined a range of new ad measures, beginning with a new element within its Advantage ad suite, which incorporates Meta’s various ad automation and AI-based tools.
As explained by Meta:
“We’re rolling out Advantage custom audience, a new targeting automation product that leverages an advertiser’s Custom Audience to reach new and existing customers. This is similar to Lookalike audiences that find people who are likely to be interested in your business, except that Advantage custom audience goes beyond the 1%, 5% or 10% similarity ranges you are used to, while also prioritizing delivery of ads to people in your Custom Audience.”
Expanding the matching depth for Custom Audiences could be big, with the process guided by Meta’s evolving machine learning tools to help maximize campaign performance with less manual effort.
Many performance advertisers have noted the improvement in Meta’s automated targeting tools, and with broader matching options to work with, it could be a good way to improve reach and response. Likely worthy of an experiment at least.
Meta’s also updating its Click to Messenger ads, with a new optimization that will target users more likely to make a purchase via a message thread.
“Typically, we show Click to Messenger ads to people who are most likely to initiate a conversation with a business on WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct. With this update, we’re introducing the ability for advertisers to run Click to Messenger ads which will reach the people who are most likely to make a purchase in a thread.”
That adds another dimension to Click to Messenger targeting, which could help to optimize reach to people that are more likely to buy in-stream. Meta’s also adding a new ad format for lead generation which will funnel customers to either Messenger or a form, depending on which one the customer is most likely to interact with.
Meta’s also made improvements to its privacy solutions, including its Private Lift Measurement product. While at the same time, it’s also been working with various academics to study the impacts of the privacy shift.
“For example, we collaborated with academics from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago to better understand the value of offsite data for ads personalization, in part to help guide the development of solutions that leverage privacy-enhancing technologies. The research reveals that advertisers’ costs increased by 37% when removing offsite data from the ad delivery system with outsized impact on smaller advertisers in CPG, retail, and e-commerce, who are often more reliant on digital performance advertising than larger, more established companies.”
So while Meta’s working to build more privacy-protective processes, it’s also looking to highlight the impacts that these changes will have on the broader industry, as it pushes the big platforms to factor such into their future changes and shifts.
Finally, Meta’s also looking to help advertisers to prepare for the next stage of digital connection, partnering with Coursera on a new, free course called “What is the metaverse?”
“This course explains what the metaverse is, what we know about it today and what it means for the future of work, play and life. We’re working with partners like Coursera to give people, businesses, creators and developers the tools needed to succeed as the metaverse takes shape.”
Though you will be getting Meta’s interpretation of what ‘metaverse’ means, which may not be exactly how it plays out. Meta’s increasingly keen to impress its vision of the metaverse future onto anyone who’ll listen, but it’s also important to note that the metaverse does not exist, and will not exist in a fully-functional, interoperable way for some time yet.
Still, it may be worth tuning in, and getting some insight into Meta’s future vision, and how it relates to advertising and brand reach.
You can pre-enroll to the new ‘What is the Metaverse’?’ course here.
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