WhatsApp launches first global ad campaign following privacy policy backlash

Business

WhatsApp has launched its first global marketing campaign in reaction to a public backlash against a privacy policy announcement.

The messaging platform says the campaign is designed to reiterate its “commitment to privacy”.

It comes after months of uncertainty around the Facebook-owned app after its updated privacy policy sparked confusion and concern among some users over possible increased data sharing.

WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart admitted the incident had in part led to the creation of a marketing campaign around the platform.

But he also said it was a chance for the company to make its case for using encryption.

“The idea is we’re going to communicate to people the benefits of privacy and encryption directly,” he said.

“What we’re really trying to do here is take end-to-end encryption, which is an abstract term, and help translate it to people.

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“We view this as underscoring our commitment to privacy and encryption at a time which we think is particularly relevant because there continue to be attacks on it in some parts of the world, so we think it’s particularly important that consumers understand what it is and what’s at stake.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel has previously criticised Facebook’s plans to expand the end-to-end encryption already in use on WhatsApp to the messaging sections of its other apps: Instagram and Facebook Messenger.

She has claimed it places children at risk and offers a hiding place for abusers and other criminals.

Mr Cathcart acknowledged that some people would still have questions about the system, but argued that those who criticise encryption often did so without also “connecting it to all the benefits” it can provide.

“It’s a really critical tool for people like journalists, activists, whistleblowers – we think people get that, but we believe it is a really critical tool beyond that – it’s for everyone,” he said.

“It keeps people safe from hacking. It protects people from fraud, it protects people from identity theft.”

The campaign, which will include online, radio, TV and digital outdoor advertising, also comes as the platform faces new pressure from other encrypted messaging services, with many switching away from WhatsApp in the wake of the policy update confusion.

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