Second WhatsApp co-founder leaves Facebook over privacy concerns

WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum has stepped down from Facebook amid clashes between the companies’ executives regarding its privacy policy moving forward

  • By Fernando Moncada Rivera | Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

The use of WhatsApp for advertising purposes is something Jan Koum and co-founder Brian Acton were adamantly against when they started the company in 2009

On April 30, the co-founder of encrypted messaging service WhatsApp, Jan Koum, announced he was stepping down from Facebook, WhatsApp’s parent company. Koum’s departure adds to Facebook’s struggles, as the company attempts to navigate the privacy scandal involving political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook’s attempts to monetise the free messaging platform, such as developing tools to make it easier for businesses to reach their customers, have resulted in clashes between WhatsApp and Facebook executives.

Facebook’s attempts to monetise the free messaging platform have resulted in clashes between WhatsApp and Facebook executives

The use of WhatsApp for advertising purposes is something Koum and co-founder Brian Acton were adamantly against when they started the company. There are concerns that some of the tools Facebook is looking to develop would weaken the app’s end-to-end encryption system – its strongest value proposition.

“It’s been almost a decade since Brian [Acton] and I started WhatsApp, and it’s been an amazing journey with some of the best people,” Koum said in a post to his Facebook page.

“But it is time for me to move on. 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.” Koum is also expected to step down from his seat on Facebook’s board of directors.

Brian Acton, WhatsApp’s other co-founder, left the company in September, later deleting his Facebook when it was revealed the data of more than 50 million users had been improperly accessed by third parties. Koum’s departure is likely to compound public scepticism regarding the social network’s commitment to privacy.

Koum and Acton founded WhatsApp in 2009, later selling the company to Facebook for $19bn in 2014. WhatsApp, alongside fellow messaging apps Telegram and Signal, has been the preferred tool of communication for a growing number of people concerned with privacy violation, both from private companies and governments.