Quite a few reports circling the web this week appear to indicate a tightening of WhatsApp’s policy toward the usage of third-party WhatsApp client applications. That is, word has it that those using an unofficial app will be banned from WhatsApp for life. However, that’s not exactly the case, WhatsApp explains. In fact, there’s been no larger policy shift since we last reported on the now Facebook-owned company’s crackdown on third-party app usage earlier this year.
As you may recall, in January, WhatsApp began banning users from its service when they were found to be using a third-party (unofficial) WhatsApp mobile application. In order to be allowed back into WhatsApp, users were asked to uninstall the offending app from their phone, then download the authorized version of WhatsApp from the app store instead. The company also explained the policy via an FAQ on its website.
At the time, one popular app maker even reported receiving a cease-and-desist from WhatsApp related to his service’s development.
The reason for the crackdown, the company explained, was related to security and privacy. It simply can’t guarantee such apps are safe, given that WhatsApp doesn’t control their source code.
That challenge is one many mobile application makers today face, as failing to restrict third-party app usage can lead to disastrous results – as Snapchat found out last year when its users were hacked. The event, dubbed “The Snappening,” came about due to insecurities in third-party applications.
The confusion this week related to WhatsApp’s policy on third-party clients appears to stem from a Google+ posting from WhatsApp+’s developer where he states that WhatsApp has started a “Permanent Account Disable” recently. That post was picked up by a German blog, and then subsequently began making the rounds as other sites repeated the story, and the details (in some cases) became fuzzy.
The problem is that there’s confusion around this terminology of a “lifetime ban.” That makes it sound like users are being banned from WhatsApp forever, but that’s not the case.
Instead, the same policy as before still stands: if users continue to use WhatsApp+ (or another third-party app), they will not be able to use WhatsApp anymore, as the company explained previously.
What has perhaps shifted is that, before, the company was issuing 24-hour “temporary” bans complete with a countdown timer displayed to affected users, but now those users are simply not able to use WhatsApp’s services at all until the third-party apps are uninstalled. [Update: some additional confirmation on how this works has been provided. If WhatsApp has warned the user more than once, they may not see the 24-hour clock. But after they uninstall WhatsApp+ they should be able to use WhatsApp within a few days. ]
“If a user doesn’t uninstall WhatsApp+ then they will continue to be banned until they stop using it. But there is no permanent ban,” a WhatsApp spokesperson confirms.
In other words, once a user removes WhatsApp+, WhatsApp Reborn, OgWhatsapp or any other third-party client from their smartphone, they’ll again be able to use the official WhatsApp app – just the same as before. Their account and associated phone number is not “permanently” banned or “banned for life” from WhatsApp itself.