Indian Neeraj Arora helped broker the sale of WhatsApp to Facebook for about $22 billion in 2014. Eight years later, however, WhatsApp’s former commercial director says he regrets having contributed to the deal.
“Nobody knew at first that Facebook would turn into a Frankenstein’s monster devouring user data,” Arora wrote in a series of posts on his Twitter account on May 4.
“Today, WhatsApp is Facebook’s second largest platform (even bigger than Instagram or FB Messenger). But it’s a shadow of the product we put our hearts on and wanted to build for the world,” said Arora.
WhatsApp was founded by Ukrainian-American Jan Koum and American Brian Acton in 2009, as an application that allowed users to communicate internationally, paying a dollar to download it, Arora recalled.
“For people (like me) with relatives in multiple countries, WhatsApp was a way to stay connected, without paying long-distance SMS or calling fees,” he said.
When the negotiation began, Facebook agreed to certain unshakable conditions for WhatsApp’s founders: not to use user information for data mining (explore data for consistent patterns), not to publish ads, or to implement cross-platform tracking, Arora explained.
At the time of the deal, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg described WhatsApp services as “incredibly valuable” in a statement announcing the deal.
He recalled that Facebook approached WhatsApp with “an offer that felt like a partnership” based on “full end-to-end encryption support, no ads, full independence in product decisions and a seat on the board for Jan Koum”.
However, “in 2017 and 2018, things started to look very different,” he said.
The former commercial director recalled that in 2018 “the details of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light”, and WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton “sent a tweet that shocked the social media stratum or sphere”.
“The time has come. #deletefacebook”, published Acton on his personal account in March 2018 to support the conviction against Facebook for having allowed the British consultancy Cambridge Analytica to collect data from millions of users of the social network without their consent and use it for project political propaganda.
The company would have had access to the volume of data when it launched a psychological test application on the social network. Those Facebook users who participated in the test ended up giving Cambridge Analytica not only their information, but also the data regarding their profile friends.
As early as 2022, Neeraj Arora wrote, “Tech companies need to admit when they’ve done something wrong.” And he concluded the thread on Twitter by saying he’s not the only one who regrets that WhatsApp has become part of Facebook.
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