Since the popular messaging service WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion, users have worried that the takeover would eventually lead to unfavorable changes to their favorite chat app. Though CEO and cofounder Jan Koum emphasized that WhatsApp would maintain its autonomy and continue to operate independently, there were whispers that Facebook would soon begin monitoring WhatsApp conversations in order to serve even more targeted ads. To put users at ease, Koum released a statement on the WhatsApp blog today stressing the app’s commitment to privacy.
In his post, Koum underlines a personal appreciation for privacy born out of his experience with censorship:
I was born in Ukraine, and grew up in the USSR during the 1980s. One of my strongest memories from that time is a phrase I’d frequently hear when my mother was talking on the phone: ‘This is not a phone conversation; I’ll tell you in person.’ The fact that we couldn’t speak freely without the fear that our communications would be monitored by KGB is in part why we moved to the United States when I was a teenager.
Koum goes on to reiterate that WhatsApp will not collect user information even after it’s acquired. He sees WhatsApp as a means to extend freedom of speech to people around the world and writes, “If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it.” He sees WhatsApp’s partnership with Facebook as part of that effort.
“Make no mistake: our future partnership with Facebook will not compromise the vision that brought us to this point,” said Koum.
This statement comes just weeks after WhatsApp announced it would add voice calling to its app by June.