What does WhatsApp's new business API mean for data privacy?
Instant Messaging/IM

What does WhatsApp's new business API mean for data privacy?

Instant messaging platform WhatsApp has made a major foray into enterprise communication with the launch of an invitation-only API for businesses. Looking to monetize its extremely popular IM service, the company is offering large companies the opportunity to access and communicate with more than 1.5 billion users globally.

Using the platform, companies will be able to send customers information such as delivery updates, purchase receipts and boarding passes automatically. They can also use it as a customer service tool, quickly answering questions about products and services. Finally, consumers will have the option to start WhatsApp conversations with businesses through click-to-chat buttons on Facebook.

Currently, the service remains somewhat exclusive. According to VentureBeat, only 90 of the world’s largest companies have been asked to use the platform. They include the likes of Uber, KLM Airlines and Booking.com. But over time - and if everything goes to plan -  it’ll be opened up to more customers.

This is clearly a great way for businesses to promote their products and keep in touch with customers, although there are a number of burning questions that need to be asked. Firstly, will WhatsApp actually be able to transform the way companies communicate with consumers? And, given the level of access companies will have to personal data, what does this move for data privacy and security?

Troubled times

Raul Castanon-Martinez, an analyst at 451 Research, says Facebook is finally trying to make money out of the instant messaging service after buying it for $19 billion in 2014. Another motivating factor is that the social media giant has been hurt financially by ongoing privacy struggles. “First and foremost Facebook is looking to monetize WhatsApp; this has been the number one question since the multi-million acquisition took place a few years ago,” he tells IDG Connect.

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Nicholas Fearn

Nicholas is a technology journalist from the Welsh valleys. His work has been featured on Engadget, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, TechRadar, The Next Web, Forbes, Computer Weekly, Computing, Mail Online, The Telegraph and many other media outlets. In addition, he edits Tech Dragons, a publication covering STEM in Wales.

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