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WhatsApp will disable messages unless users agree to new privacy policy

WhatsApp users who don't agree to the Facebook-owned service's updated privacy policy face the possibility of losing the ability to send or receive messages through the iPhone app.

WhatsApp is preparing to make changes to its privacy policy relating to some of its business chat features. The changes have become a subject of wariness for some users, but the service plans to encourage users to agree to the new policy.

Initially sent in an email to merchant partners, first spotted by TechCrunch, the WhatsApp website advises users have an "effective date" of May 15th to review the policy changes. WhatsApp "will not delete" user accounts that don't accept the policy updates, but they "won't have full functionality of WhatsApp" until they accept.

The page describes this as "For a short time, you'll be able to receive calls and notifications, but won't be able to read or send messages from the app." The duration of the "short time" is not defined.

After May 15, users will be able to accept the changes, but WhatsApp warns its policy "related to inactive users will apply." That policy advises accounts deemed inactive are "generally deleted after 120 days of inactivity."

Users are also informed they can export their chat history and download a report of their account before May 15. Account deletion advice is also offered, but with the further warning that it cannot be reversed.

WhatsApp experienced a backlash from users concerned about the inbound privacy policy changes. While the changes updated how business chat logs are stored to be retained on Facebook's servers, critics considered it a wider grab for personal data by Facebook itself.

The reaction from users led to an exodus for millions to other privacy services, including Telegram and Signal. In response, WhatsApp started to use its Status feature to remind users it cannot read their encrypted conversations.