Facebook's first response to its data leak scandal ignores two of its big products: Instagram and WhatsApp

  • Facebook announced new privacy changes on Wednesday, but didn't say that it's applying these same controls to other products it owns, including Instagram and WhatsApp.
  • Both of those services collect data on users, too.

Facebook announced new privacy features on Wednesday, but they aren't enough.

The changes should help current Facebook users learn more about what data Facebook has, and make it easier to delete that data. The moves were a response to reports that a third party quiz app collected data on more than 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge, then passed this data to political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica against Facebook policy.

But Facebook also owns two other highly popular applications: Instagram, with more than 800 million monthly users as of September and WhatsApp, with more than 1.5 billion monthly users as of January.

The company didn't mention any changes to those apps today, and did not immediately respond to a question about whether the company was planning to update their privacy settings.

And these apps can collect plenty of information, too.

Instagram

The Instagram logo
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The Instagram logo

Instagram's terms of service, which haven't been updated in the app since 2013, says that it reserves the right to gather your photos, comments and "other materials" you upload.

But it doesn't let you download a copy of every image you've ever uploaded, and doesn't provide any sort of information on the ads you've seen or interacted with -- in other words, it does not even offer the basic controls that Facebook has had for some years.

Instagram also gathers information on websites you click while using the service, which means it knows what ads or brands you're most interested in to serve you ads it thinks you're most interested in. There's no way to turn this off on Instagram, even though Facebook says it will make this change in the core Facebook app.

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WhatsApp

WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption for messages, which means it's harder for others to see the conversations you have. WhatsApp also says it doesn't store any messages, unlike Facebook Messenger.

But its privacy controls are limited.

According to WhatsApp's terms, it reserves the right to send marketing messages for "something that might interest you," which it says it might be able to one day gather from "appointment information, delivery and shipping notifications, product and service updates, and marketing."

The same terms also say that users "provide the numbers of WhatsApp users and your other contacts in your mobile phone address book on a regular basis," the same thing that Facebook has been doing.

You can download your chat history on WhatsApp as a backup, in case you decide to switch phones and want to keep your chats intact, but you can't download any information on what sorts of data WhatsApp has collected on you, or view the address book it says it's allowed to upload. Those are two things you can already do on Facebook.