Co-founder of WhatsApp and CEO Jan Koum is leaving the company in the midst of arguments with Facebook as regards data privacy and business model of the platform. Koum and his fellow co-founder Brian Acton sold WhatsApp to Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion according to our sources.
The following is a post of Koum on Facebook declaring his intentions to leave the company. Although the post did not indicate any tumult within the inner circle, however, it is obvious Koum had an issue with the approach to data privacy.
Mark Zuckerberg replied in a comment saying, “Jan: 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.”
Koum and Acton are pious privacy advocates who pledged to preserve the sanctity of WhatsApp when they sold it to Facebook 4years ago denoting that they both had no intentions of making the product share data with Facebook or even integrating it with a user’s Facebook account.
In spite of this, Facebook pushed WhatsApp to change its terms of service last year to give Facebook access to WhatsApp users’ phone numbers. The leadership of Facebook also pushed for unified profiles through its products that could be used for data mining and ad targeting, as well as a recommendation system that would suggest Facebook friends based on WhatsApp contacts.
The business model of the app also brought in a heat between Koum and Facebook with Facebook advocating the elimination of the $0.99 annual subscription fee in a bid to increase user growth as well as advertising, and letting businesses chat with customers as potential sources of revenue. The plan to bring businesses into the platform was spiky because according to the reports reaching us from our sources, Facebook wanted to weaken WhatsApp encryption to give businesses access to user conversations.
It also appears that Acton is fed up with Facebook as well.