WhatsApp founder leaving Facebook over privacy concerns, Washington Post reports

It looks like the ongoing controversy over Facebook Inc.’s privacy policies might have had a casualty after all.

On Monday, WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum, whose messaging app was acquired by Facebook in 2014 and which he’s continued to run as a separate entity, announced that he had made the “emotional” decision to step down in a post on… Facebook.

No reason was given, but the Washington Post, citing “people familiar with internal discussions,” reported that it was over Facebook’s strategy for WhatsApp and its attempts to use the app’s personal data and weaken its encryption.

Koum’s announcement followed the Post’s initial report, which also noted that Koum plans to step down from Facebook’s board of directors, though his date of departure was unknown.

Koum sold WhatsApp to Facebook for $22 billion USD in 2014, and according to Bloomberg could be forfeiting as much as $1 billion USD in stock options.

Koum has declined to comment on the reports, but user data protection spurred WhatsApp’s creation in the first place, with Koum and co-founder Brian Acton promising to preserve user privacy during the Facebook acquisition and the app itself adding encryption in 2016. WhatsApp, which until 2016 charged users an annual $0.99 subscription fee, currently has more than 1.5 billion users.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was among the first commenters after Koum posted his announcement, saying that he “will miss working so closely with” Koum.

“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,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Those values will always be at the heart of WhatsApp.”

As for Acton, he quietly left Facebook last November, and was among the voices calling for Facebook’s deletion in wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of ITBusiness.ca turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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