News that WhatsApp is set to share data with its parent company Facebook had many users crying foul over privacy concerns, however now the announcement has reverberated around the world brands are starting to see the commercial opportunities in the decision.
The move by WhatsApp and Facebook will allow brands to use the messaging app as a customer service tool by matching users more accurately with brands. Examples include messaging users about delivery updates, sending receipts or it can even be used by airlines to communicate the arrival and departure time of flights.
Facebook has been positioning its Messenger app as also having similar customer service capabilities, however with WhatsApp also having one billion users in its stable, it's an ample pool that brands and marketers are going to want to dive into.
Some brands are already dabbling with the offering, with Digiday highlighting that Dutch bank ABN AMRO receives an average of 3,000 messages via WhatsApp each week, despite promoting the channel very little, said Jeroen van de Ven, the bank’s social media manager.
“[WhatsApp] has finally realised it’s time to open it in an official way,” he said.
Van de Ven explained to Digiday how WhatsApp’s current spam policy has made it difficult for brand users wanting to send out high volumes of messages. But if this is changed, they will be able to treat WhatsApp as seriously as other customer service channels like Facebook and Twitter.
However many privacy groups around the world aren't happy about the move, with UK’s Information Commissioner announcing it will be investigating the move. The UK is joined by US-based groups the Electronic Privacy Information Centre and the Centre for Digital Democracy, who are asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the new WhatsApp moves.
According to Ad Age, the groups called the data handover to Facebook "unfair and deceptive," noting, "WhatsApp users could not reasonably have anticipated that by selecting a pro-privacy messaging service, they would subject their data to Facebook's data collection practices."
This makes for an interesting conundrum for brands. Should they wade into the new offering in the hope of reaping the commercial benefits at the risk of alienating privacy conscious consumers?
Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at email@example.com