WhatsApp Co-Founder Leaving Company Over Reported Privacy Clash with Facebook

WhatsApp Co-Founder Leaving Company Over Reported Privacy Clash with Facebook

WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum announced on Monday that he's leaving the company.

When WhatsApp agreed to the company's sale to Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion, it said WhatsApp would remain an independent service and would not share its data with Facebook.

Koum announced his departure on Monday; he said it was time for him to move on, and made no mention of any tension with Facebook. "I'm 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". Facebook's poor privacy protections were exposed last month during the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which centered on a quiz app that sucked up user data, and their friends' data.

In a reply to Mr Koum's Facebook post, Mr Zuckerberg credited him with teaching him "about encryption and its ability to take power from centralised systems and put it back in people's hands".

Koum's departure comes just a day before Facebook's annual f8 developer conference, where the company is looking to move beyond the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the associated privacy backlash, but this announcement might just make those efforts a bit harder - especially since it brings back memories of Whatsapp co-founder Brian Acton and his departure from the company. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to answer questions, including whether Mr. Koum would remain on Facebook's board of directors.

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Acton left WhatsApp late previous year and joined in the growing backlash against Facebook, endorsing a campaign that encouraged users to delete their profiles from the social network.

Koum resisted his parent company's attempts to pull more data from WhatsApp users for advertising purposes. But in coming months, Facebook has discussed plans to introduce ads to its "Status" feature, which allows users to post images and videos that disappear within 24 hours, much like on Instagram or Snap Inc.'s Snapchat, the person said.

To attract more advertisers to WhatsApp, there were also discussions about weakening the platform's end-to-end encryption, which essentially prevents anyone, including Facebook or WhatsApp, from reading the contents of messages sent over the service. Koum and Acton and other Facebook executives, the person said. At that time of buyout by Mark Zuckerberg-led social media giant, WhatsApp also promised users that these values wouldn't be compromised.

Koum's concerns over Facebook's attitude towards privacy may have started in 2016, when an update to WhatsApp's privacy policy noted that the company planned to start sharing user data with Facebook.

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