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WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum quits Facebook amid privacy concerns

Reports claim that there were clashes between WhatsApp and Facebook executives regarding user privacy and encryption.

  • Updated: May 1, 2018 11:11 AM IST

Facebook is going through one of its toughest times, courtesy of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. Amid this comes a news that WhatsApp founder Jan Koum has decided to quit Facebook. Koum put out a short post announcing his decision to quit the social media giant.

“It’s been almost a decade since Brian and I started WhatsApp, and it’s been an amazing journey with some of the best people. But it is time for me to move on,” Koum’s post reads. “I’ve been blessed to work with such an incredibly small team and see how a crazy amount of focus can produce an app used by so many people all over the world.”

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook back in 2014 in a deal worth $19 billion. Since then, Koum has continued to work as WhatsApp’s CEO, and is also a Facebook board member. Koum doesn’t really reveal the reasons behind him leaving, instead writing, “I’m leaving at a time when people are using WhatsApp in more ways than I could have imagined. The team is stronger than ever and it’ll continue to do amazing things.”

But according to a Washington Post report, the real reason for Koum’s exit is due to differences with Facebook regarding user privacy, and weakening of WhatsApp’s encryption. The report states a particular scenario where WhatsApp executives were against Facebook’s plan to build user profiles using the app’s data. These profiles would then be used across Facebook and its platforms for ad-targeting and recommendations among others. The report however does mention that despite opposition, Koum and co-founder Brian Acton eventually gave in to this idea.

Watch: WhatsApp features in 2017

The WP report further claims that there were clashes between WhatsApp and Facebook executives over the recently launched UPI payment option in India. All these are being said to have pushed Koum towards an exit, and he could be followed by other executives later this year.

Hinting at his near-future plans, Koum wrote in his post, “I’m taking some time off to do things I enjoy outside of technology, such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee. And I’ll still be cheering WhatsApp on – just from the outside.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg commented on Koum’s post saying, “I will miss working so closely with you. 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. Those values will always be at the heart of WhatsApp.”

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg too commented on the post, “Jan, the work you’ve done building WhatsApp has connected so many people around the world. I’m grateful to have worked with you and I wish you all the best in your next chapter.”

  • Published Date: May 1, 2018 11:08 AM IST
  • Updated Date: May 1, 2018 11:11 AM IST