WhatsApp, the popular messaging app, has made controversial changes to its privacy policy that will allow it to share users’ phone numbers with parent company Facebook. The purpose of the move is to enable Facebook to start pushing even more targeted ads to their users.

The change to WhatsApp’s privacy policy came into effect yesterday, and means that Facebook will now have access to the phone numbers of over a billion WhatsApp users. These phone numbers will be stored in a database, which will then be cross-referenced with the contact databases of businesses wishing to advertise on Facebook, allowing them to directly target individuals on the social media platform. Contrary to popular opinion, the change does not mean that WhatsApp will begin to advertise with banner ads in its own app, although the move would imply that this is not out of the question in the future.

In an official blog post, WhatsApp suggested that the privacy policy change means that “Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them”.

Facebook has been desperately searching for ways to monetise WhatsApp after their much-publicised $19 billion takeover in 2014. After an ill-advised attempt to introduce an annual fee for the app was axed earlier this year, it now appears that the world’s largest social network has found a more subtle, yet perhaps far more effective, way of utilising WhatsApp: data.

(Banner image credit: The Guardian)