wnol.info July 20 2018

Amid privacy controversies, WhatsApp founder departs Facebook

July 20 2018, 08:25 | Alexander Lowe

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum quits over privacy disagreements with Facebook

WhatsApp founder plans to leave after broad clashes with parent Facebook

Jan Koum, the co-founder of WhatsApp, the app Facebook bought for $19.3 billion, announced today that he's leaving after clashes over privacy.

Ukranian immigrant Mr Koum co-founded WhatsApp in 2009 with Stanford alumnus Brian Acton, who left the company in September and donated $50 million of his own money to rival messaging app Signal. After four years, Jan Koum thinks it is time to leave because Facebook's values no longer align with his.

Koum didn't elaborate on his reasons for leaving, other to say it was time to "move on" so he could spend more time "collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee".

The Post, citing people familiar with internal WhatsApp discussions, said Koum was worn down by the differences in approach to privacy and security between WhatsApp and Facebook.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote a direct response to Koum's Facebook post, pushing back against the suggestion that encryption will be weakened on WhatsApp. Facebook's poor privacy protections were exposed last month during the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which centered on a quiz app that sucked up user data, and their friends' data.

"I'm grateful for everything you've done to help connect the world, and for everything you've taught me, including about encryption and its ability to take power from centralized systems and put it back in people's hands", Zuckerberg wrote.

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Koum and Acton started WhatsApp in 2009, charging US$0.99 annually for private communications and gathered nearly 500 million users by 2014, according to the Washington Post.

Koum resisted his parent company's attempts to pull more data from WhatsApp users for advertising purposes.

Acton left WhatsApp late a year ago and joined in the growing backlash against Facebook, endorsing a campaign that encouraged users to delete their profiles from the social network.

Facebook has been accused of being lax and allowing the transfer of its users' information to companies who then target them with ads, along with revelations of Russian election manipulation in the USA, fake news, data leaks and more. WhatsApp made all of its messages end-to-end encrypted in 2016 - a feature Facebook Messenger has as well, although users have to opt-in to it. With the exit of Koum, Facebook now comes under the scanner again.

"In a February blog post on the Signal Foundation site, Acton wrote: "(Signal founder) Moxie (Marlinspike) and I share a belief that the best way to continue to ensure the universal availability of high-security and low-priced communications services like Signal is to do so through a foundation structure that is free of the inherent limitations of a for-profit company.

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