The Android beta of the app has a new option in settings that was spotted by developer Javier Santos. It reads: "Share my account info."Selecting the option will "share...WhatsApp account information with Facebook to improve [the] Facebook experience," according to the description.
Facebook has previously been hands-off when it comes to WhatsApp, letting CEO Jan Koum run the service as its own entity. The company recently dropped its $0.99-a-year subscription option in favour of connecting people with businesses.
In an interview with Wired, Koum explained the change as reducing the friction of signing up for WhatsApp, especially in emerging markets. "We've done really well in the consumer space," he said. "But there is (a) whole other aspect of communication as you go through your day: You want to communicate with businesses."
It's unclear what kind of data is shared between Facebook and WhatsApp, but the kind of targetting Koum is talking about requires information about the user. Facebook "Likes" could illuminate the kind of services a WhatsApp user is interested in and help them connect with brands.
Another reason for the change could be to help WhatsApp expand into a fully fledged social network. The only way to find friends on the service currently is via a phone number and an integration with Facebook could expand this.
The beta app also includes a new section focused on privacy, explaining how messages are encrypted end-to-end so not even WhatsApp can see the contents. This is similar to the method Apple, which operates iMessage, uses.
WhatsApp was briefly banned in Brazil after refusing to comply with a court order for user messages and the new section helps reinforce the message that WhatsApp is on your side, not the government's.