Turkish government drops Whatsapp after privacy changes

Turkey’s Presidential Directorate of Communications and Defence Ministry have announced they will drop phone messaging app Whatsapp over new usage terms that have sparked privacy concerns, Bloomberg reported on Sunday.

The presidency will transfer its Whatsapp groups to Turkcell’s BiP encrypted messaging app on Monday, the press office told journalists, urging them to do the same, according to Bloomberg. Turkey’s sovereign wealth fund, headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, took a majority stake in Turkcell, the country’s biggest mobile phone operator, in 2020.

About 1 million new users joined BiP Messenger in the past 24 hours, Turkcell said in statement on Sunday, according to the news agency. The application has been downloaded more than 53 million times since it was launched in 2013, the company said.

WhatsApp Inc.’s updated terms and services effective on Feb. 8 will allow the service to share data with parent company Facebook Inc. Users must agree to the new terms, which would allow for more targeted advertisements, or lose access to their accounts at WhatsApp.

The government’s switch in messaging services comes amid Erdoğan’s campaign to put social media giants under greater scrutiny.

In 2020, Turkish parliament ratified a law stipulates that social media giants like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram must appoint a legal representative in Turkey to whom courts can turn to make requests to remove content or provide the identity of users.