back to article Facebook pays $19bn for WhatsApp. Yep. $45 for YOUR phone book

Putting a man on the Moon cost less than what Facebook paid for WhatsApp, a generic chat app. So why is Facebook paying $45 per user to gain functionality it already has? The silly numbers look even sillier when you consider Facebook's own Messenger only lags narrowly behind WhatsApp in terms of usage. Facebook Messenger …


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  1. Tom Wood

    Yes, the HSCIC is at pains to point out that they won't make any profit selling our data.

    Which seems to be missing a trick. If you are going to collect our data and pimp it out to private companies, at least sell it at market rate and put the profit back towards the health services you stole the data from.

    1. JurassicPark

      A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

      Facebook / WhatsApp. I don't use either, I can't see the point, and gathering from comments on here, most IT literate punters don't either.

      But you can't argue at the numbers, 450m have given their telephone number to WhatsApp. Assuming these have to be checked at sign-up, that's 450m valid numbers. Plus 680m mobile Facebook users (I guess there will be some overlap), that's possibly a billion users. Add voice functionality to WhatsApp / Facebook mobile app and that's 1/7th of the world population talking/texting that you can tap into, literally or figuratively.

      el capitano Zuck has some serious political clout if he wishes to wield it.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby

        @Jurrasic Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

        The article mentioned that WhatsApp also slurped your phone book, so its 450m users times the numbers in their phone book.

        So suppose you don't use WhatsApp, but a friend or associate does.

        They now have your phone number.

        Suppose someone at your company has the company phone directory on their smart phone...

        It just got slurped.

        The really interesting thing is that when they say the founder is persnickity about security, yet talk about how insecure the app is... how does that equate? Or am I missing something?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Jurrasic A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

          And if in slurping your phonebook - which today doesn't contains phone numbers also - they get also alll other data that links phone number to emails to other applications IDs (i.e. Skype and others) to locations (addresses) to contact names, you are able to access many informations some people didn't handle you ot that could be very difficult to easy link down to a single "entity" - through their friends or acquaitances.

          Google does the same, or Microsoft, through their "backup & sharing across devices" services on the "cloud"... the only reason they offer those services for free it's you handle them very valuable informations. And once you handled your data to someone else, there's a good chance they will end in some "big data" database even if you try to give some contacts detail only to some people you "trust", the problem now is you can't trust their devices because they are designed to slurp data and send them to their creators. Legislator should enforce an opt-out flag for this kind of data, but even if they were spyed fron NSA they don't understand how many data are collected through devices.

          While someone keeps on downvoting here anybody who points this out, it has to be someone from Google & C.... maybe even a bot - or someone who looks alike the three monkeys that don't want to see, hear, talk... because for him spamming his friends with useless messages to show he has a smartphone is more important to protect our privacy.

      2. Spearchucker Jones

        Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

        Actually it's worse than that. WhatsApp uploads all contacts in your address book. This means Facebook get your number, but also the numbers and email addresses of all your mates.

        When Facebook looks at WhatsApp, I think all they see is a data mining wet dream.

        1. Apriori

          Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

          OH MY GOD!!!! They know my phone number and maybe even my address. This means that they can control me, all my actions, what I spend, how I vote, they can take my children into slavery and start a world war of they want.

          Frankly, SO WHAT? I could not begin to count the number of web sites I have signed up to which have all sorts of unimportant, low level data about me. And exactly what benefit do you think they will get from learning I phone my wife when I am working abroad. (Actually, mostly I use Skype because UK mobile phone networks charge so much I just rip the SIM out of the phone when I get on a plane)

          And as for medical records, please give them away. If my records, Hadoop and R and Bioconstructor can come up with a cure for some cancer, some element of heart disease or Parkinson's or something, I am delighted and would not expect to get any reward more than a footnote in Cell or Nature.

          1. Gav

            Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

            "OH MY GOD!!!! They know my phone number"

            You need to look a bit further than the obvious to see the implications of this. The fact that you don't is exactly what the likes of Facebook rely on.

            They don't just know your phone number. They know your phone, and by extension where your phone has been. They know who you know. They know where they've been. They know what you've shown an interest in, they know what your friends/colleges/relatives are interested in.

            They are then going to sell that to any company who wants it. From that point onwards, each of these company you contact, for any reason, knows way more about you than you've actually chosen to divulge. They know just how good a customer you may or may not turn out to be. They have a pretty good idea of what you might pay for things, and just how likely you are to go to a competitor. When it comes to your relationship with that company, and any negotiations involved, the balance is skewed way over in their favour. Because they already know everything and you know nothing.

            Don't really want you as a customer? Quote higher prices. Do want you? Lower. Reckon you're loaded? Higher. Know you're already likely to go elsewhere? Lower. Likely to influence a lot of friends' purchases? Lower. Billy no-mates? Higher.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

            1) The more informations you give away about you, the more ways they'll find to use them *against* you, to extract as much money as they can from you....

            2) If ever they develop a cure for cancer, they will make you pay it dearly even if you gave away your data for free. It's all about money, not helping people. But I guess from data they understand they need to invest more in viagra-like drugs, not curing cancer - especially from those textting their "girlfriend" abroad...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

        FB and their ilk have their uses but it's like buying a chainsaw. If you really have to have it then make damn sure you buy the right protection gear and understand that if you use it then at any moment the bloody thing will happily wreck your life if you're not paying attention to it!

      4. Scorchio!!

        Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

        " 450m have given their telephone number to WhatsApp"

        And the contents of their phone books. One day people like me will be known, simply because we will be among the few sheep that do not use this stuff. Perhaps I ought to go off grid and live in the mountains of some American backwater. Yeee haaaaaaaaa.

      5. bigtimehustler

        Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

        You don't see the point in WhatsApp? How about if you need to message someone in another country regularly in a chat context? Say, you have a girlfriend living abroad for example. Paying to SMS abroad all the time would be huge cost. So there, you see a point now, just because you have no use for such a service does not mean you have to be IT illiterate to have a use for it. How about people start looking outside of their own little world before they see no point in things.

        1. csumpi
          Paris Hilton

          Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

          "Say, you have a girlfriend living abroad for example."

          That is just an imaginary situation in your head. What you have is an ex-girlfriend living abroad, banging some Italian stallion, and instead of video call, where you might get a glimpse, she pretends to you in some scuzzy text messaging app.

          Paris, she could tell you all about it.

        2. Mark .

          Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

          Yes, if only there was a way to send a message to someone without using SMS. Thank god that Whatsappthingy came along. It's annoying having to rely on SMS all t

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

          You can do it without giving away your whole phonebook including data of people who trusted you an don't expect you give their data away also, just to chat with your foreign girlfriend... maybe contacted in some lonely-man-meets-girlfriends-abroad site...

        4. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: A beelion users can't be wrong (can they?)

          Sure, you can use Whatsapp to send texts to someone in another country. You can also use Skype, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, BBM or many other services to do the same thing.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Yes, quite.

    3. Tom 38

      With the health data, we get some benefit from the selling of the data (cash), but the overall benefit should take in to account (hopefully) the new and improved drugs that can be produced from researching the data, which should give "us" a net benefit; we'll be healthier for longer.

      Not as much of a benefit as the owners of the biotech companies buying the data I suppose.

      1. Tapeador
        Thumb Up

        @Tom 38

        Absolutely - putting financial barriers in front of people using this data for medical research purposes is utterly self-defeating if our aim is for medicine to be developed rather than us to turn a buck. I'd rather an extra year of life than a new coffee table.

        As for the benefits to the biotech companies buying the data, exceeding the benefits to us, I'd say that these benefits aren't really easily commensurable. You can say an extra year of life is worth £10k or £30k but some people would pay £1bn for the privilege. In any case the sooner the medicines are developed, the sooner the patents will run out and we'll get access to these as generics, for pennies.

        As long as the companies concerned don't 'develop-in' horrible side-effects or deliberately diluted health benefits, which 'new' versions of the medicine merely ameliorate... after all who would do such a thing...

      2. Jan 0 Silver badge

        Healthier for longer?

        The new (expensive) drugs may prolong our lives, but we won't be any healthier. We'll be sick, but just postponing death. Big Pharma isn't interested in making us healthy - that requires prevention - they just want to milk our wallets while we take longer to die.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You really think drugs make you healthy?

        Ah yes, the good doctor has said so. It must be true.

      4. Paul Smith

        The new and improved ?

        New and improved drugs? I am not sure if you have been paying attention. When is the last time you heard about a drug company coming up with a cure? They have no interest in cures, and they don't want you to be healthy.

        The drug companies operate exactly the same way any other drug dealer does.

        They want you to be just healthy enough that you can continue to pay for their drugs, and sick enough that you need to take (and pay for) their drugs every day for the rest of your life!

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The biotech companies want the medical data to figure out which are the most prevalent illness that don't yet have cures so they can invest R&D capital on those areas (more $$$s in sales) as opposed to investing a cure for an illness which only a relatively minor number of people have... meaning less $$$s in sales.

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    5. Jonathan Richards 1

      Reselling the data

      > HSCIC is at pains to point out that they won't make any profit selling our data

      So how is this squared with the policy at the Ordnance Survey? There, immensely valuable data have been collected (and generated) using taxpayer's money. The last time I looked, mapping data wasn't being offered on a non-profit basis. The NHS has, on the taxpayer's dime (sixpence, maybe), collected a lot of valuable data. Why can't it make a profit on its re-use?

      It's just occurred to me... personal data is defined in the Data Protection Act as that relating to living individuals. The moment an NHS patient dies, the medical data relating to them is therefore not protected as personal. Data for dead folk is possibly even more valuable for medical research. That's forced to be a business opportunity, right there.

  2. Ralph B


    > OTT chat apps

    Please excuse my dimness, but what does "OTT" stand for in this article. Google suggests "Over The Top" but does this make sense in this case? Over The Top of IP, is it? Isn't IM the conventional acronym for this sort of thing?

    1. stratofish

      Re: OTT?

      "OVER THE TOP adverb [1935] colloquial (chiefly British). Usually with hyphens: To an excessive or exaggerated degree; beyond reasonable or acceptable limits; too far." Source -

      It's commenting on the fact that some simple chat apps also do voice and video, far beyond what they actually need, or were designed, to do.

    2. John Riddoch

      Re: OTT?

      Search Google for OTT. First hit.

      1. Daniel B.

        Re: OTT?

        Search Google for OTT. First hit.

        Missing the point? That's what he said, that the only thing he found is "Over The Top" and it isn't how any of us would describe IM apps on smartphones.

        1. John Riddoch

          Re: OTT?

          From the Wikipedia article:

          "Over-the-top messaging refers to a similar idea, where a third party provides instant messaging services as an alternative to text messaging services provided by a mobile network operator."

          Sounds like an exact match for WhatsApp.

        2. P. Lee

          Re: OTT?

          > it isn't how any of us would describe IM apps on smartphones.

          Think iMessage. It looks like SMS but with Apple's all-knowing eye understanding when both ends are an iphone (and therefore linked to its servers) it redirects the message over 3g data via its own servers, cutting out the telco.

          The prize is unique id's - phone numbers are quite handy for getting a handle on who is where. Redirecting traffic to your own servers gives you more data to mine and if you are replacing phone services, reduces your users' costs. The reason VoIP doesn't do well is the complexity of gateways to PSTN and the need to sign-up to a service which duplicates one you already have. OTT providers can avoid the problem if they have a very large database of who is online. If they can link people over data then they know they can do that, otherwise they let the call go via PSTN, with no fancy extra service required.

          That's why skype is so keen to get your address book too - they can also provide the gateway service, redirecting per-use revenue to themselves while putting the cost of providing the network on the mobile network provider. With a phone number identifier, they barely need you to create a hotmail login for id.

        3. Tom Wood

          Re: OTT?

          "Over-the-top content (OTT) refers to delivery of video, audio and other media over the Internet without a multiple system operator being involved in the control or distribution of the content."

          OTT refers to something like Netflix or Youtube (which is video sold and distributed over the top of your broadband network, not via the phone companies or cable companies themselves), as opposed for instance to Virgin Media or BT Vision's own video on demand services.

          It's not much of a stretch to extend this to messaging services. SMS messaging is a service provided by your mobile phone company. WhatsApp or Facebook messenger is provided "over the top" of the services provided by your mobile phone company (i.e, data connectivity).

    3. Spoonsinger

      Re: OTT? (but what does "OTT" stand for in this article)

      Adult TISWAS with tits and balloons. Balloons because it's like a big bubble and tits because that's what it will go up like.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I certainly don't qualify as an idiot - I don't have a Facebook account (and have never had one, so Facebook have absolutely nothing on me) and have disabled the Facebook app on my phone so that we don't have any "accidental" data slurps.

    1. vagabondo

      You don't need a FB account,

      you just need to have given your name, phone no., address, etc to someone who does allow social network hucksters access to their contacts/address book, and your data has been slurped for resale.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I assume then that you have banned everybody else who has your name, address, phone number, email address from ever letting facebook, twitter, whatsapp, linkedin etc from uploading their contacts to put them in touch with people?

      Facebook et al probably have enough data about you already to determine where you live and work, what your phone number is and who your acquaintances are.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        Data mining

        > Facebook et al probably have enough data about you already to determine where you live and work

        Behold! My leet skillz reveal a high probability that the OP is Alan and he lives and/or works in Northamptonshire. There are no prizes for guessing my real name from this post, so you needn't try.

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    While I can't argue with the conclusions in the article

    I do wonder if Facebook is also engaging in a reflexive land-grab: here's a competitor, or something that might become a competitor, eat it before it becomes a problem.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: While I can't argue with the conclusions in the article

      "embrace, extend, extinguish"

      Now where have I heard that before?

    2. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: While I can't argue with the conclusions in the article

      I agree -- I think the main purpose is defensive. Although I don't think they see WhatsApp itself as a competitor, it would be a good social network to base a Facebook competitor on, so they want to buy it before someone else can.

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Communication, Communication, Communication

      "Will he be the Rupert Murdoch of communications,"

      Dunno, I'll Google it.

  6. JeffyPoooh

    I've poisoned my phone book

    I don't use my Android for actual phoning (I've an iPhone for that), so I've laced my Android phone book with all sorts of hilarious contacts and dangerous telephone numbers.

    Poison chalice.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've poisoned my phone book

      Yeah that was worth doing...

      1. b0hem1us

        Re: I've poisoned my phone book

        Instead of moaning do it too! The more people do it the more effective it becomes. Time to hack some SOAP UI reqs.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: I've gone one better

          I grab all my family and friends' phones and add little Bobby Tables as a contact.

          Facebook is about to have a big data-loss problem.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: I've poisoned my phone book

        "Yeah that was worth doing..."

        Actually, the idea of an address book honeypot feeds my funny - if amusing himself by creatively thinking up ways to f**k Zuck is a waste of time, what does that make posting on Facebook (and after all I waste more than enough time doing that.

    2. W.O.Frobozz

      Re: I've poisoned my phone book

      You're obviously some kind of fucking idiot. Seriously. You have two kinds of phone but you "don't upload" to one just to spite them? And you believe the Almighty Hallowed Be Thy Name Apple is somehow better?

      It takes a SPECIAL kind of zealot to do the shit you do. But here's good news: you haven't made ANY difference whatsoever.

    3. Amorous Cowherder

      Re: I've poisoned my phone book

      I really wish I had that much free time!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've poisoned my phone book

      You just gave your data to a different company....

  7. big_D Silver badge

    Looks like

    people are leaving WhatsApp in droves, at least in Germany.

    Threema has jumped from nowhere (around 10,000 downloads) to overtake Modern Combat 4 with over 500,000 downloads this morning.

    I've spoken to several people and about half of them are looking at jumping, a third aren't worried, WhatsApp is easy and the rest don't use WhatsApp or Facebook, so don't give a hoot.

    I sent my German step daughter an SMS this morning "Welcome to Facebook, resistence is futile", her answer was that she had already deleted WhatsApp and was looking for something else...

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Looks like

      New WonderApp -- Ex-WonderApp now reduced to villain.

      And so it goes . . .

      (anyone still use Habbo Hotel?)

    2. vagabondo

      Re: Looks like

      But does deleting her account remove the data she has already given to them from their servers?

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Looks like

      That should have read Threema has jumped from nowhere to 4th place in the paid apps chart...

    4. csumpi

      Re: Looks like

      "people are leaving WhatsApp in droves"

      Apparently, too little, too late. Since WhatsApp already has what they wanted and sold it to the Zuck for $45 a pop.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Communication, Communication, Communication

    1. Social networking dominated - Check

    2. Instant messaging dominated - Check (SMS on downturn, text over IP on upturn)

    3. Voice sewn up - on the todo list (add VoIP to WhatsApp with 450m telephone numbers).

    4. Telco's crapping in their pants - Check (who's gonna buy minutes and texts now?)

    5. Monopolies & Mergers Commission (or US equivalent) circumvented - Check

    4 out of 5 not bad for $16bn

    Who shall we buy next, Yahoo & Flickr?

    1. PaulR79

      Re: Communication, Communication, Communication

      Telcos crapping in their pants? I highly doubt it. To get any of these you still need a data plan of some sort or permanent access to WiFi and you have to be sure that the person you want to talk to has the same. The majority still charge outrageous amounts for data and unless (until?) something like WhatsCrap and data plans are part of every single phone sold they will never replace the utility of SMS.

      SMS - they may be short, they may be relatively useless for expressing yourself but they're still part of practically every mobile phone sold on the planet. Suddenly 310 million users doesn't seem that many.

      1. Mage

        Re: charge outrageous amounts for data

        Actually no, Mobile Data is too cheap compared to Broadband Data. Voice and SMS subsidise it as they are GROSSLY over priced.

        About £20 of voice is about 135 M byte (depending on Codec and Country). Incoming termination charges about equal outgoing call costs. If the call isn't on their own network. SMS costs them nearly nothing.

        Almost all data is I/O from the Mobile Network and ALL of it, both directions is paid for to other parties per Mbyte transferred, not by time.

        1. Mark .

          Re: charge outrageous amounts for data

          For anyone on contract, it's hard to separate the costs to the user, but it's common these days to have unlimited texts, and I have more minutes than I ever would use, but it's data that is the most limiting.

          Even on PAYG, SMSs can be cheaper to the user if you only send a few per day, if you're not using Internet (but if you are using Internet, then sending extra messages through the Internet is much cheaper).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Communication, Communication, Communication

        WiFi at home - included in broadband subscription

        WiFI at work - free

        WiFi in shopping malls - free

        WiFI in bars and restaurants - free

        WiFi hotspot access - many telcos include them in the bundle

        The only time these days I have needed to pay for WiFi is on board a flight or a rail service.

        Cheap/free WiFi more available than you might think. I think telcos will be keeping an eye on such developments.

        1. Mark .

          Re: Communication, Communication, Communication

          I'm not sure Wifi at work is commonplace, even in offices, plus people may prefer to use their own mobile for privacy reasons (the same way that some people will now check Facebook on their phone at work, even though they could just use the work Internet-connected PC).

          Malls/bars/restaurants - a large number of these are those annoying ones you have to sign up and log in. It's easier to use my mobile data. Plus the faff of finding it out - if I'm in a shopping centre and want to send a text or look something up on the Internet, I don't want to have to faff finding out whether there is free "Mall Wifi", and if I can find its password. That's assuming I'm in a "mall", most shops in the UK aren't. Then it's not uncommon that Wifi connection is poor quality, and I'm better off staying with mobile.

          I have BT hotspots included in my contract, though the rare times I remember to look for it, there are none nearby. Plus you're contradicting yourself here - you're arguing that Telcos have nothing to sell anymore, because people can instead use a service sold by the Telco?

          I'm still going to want mobile data in order to cover all the places where Wifi isn't available, which for me is most places outside of home, and since I've got mobile data, it's usually easier to keep using that rather than faff with seeing if I can find Wifi at any random point.

    2. Daemon-Byte

      Re: Communication, Communication, Communication

      Norway's telcos have already seen the writing on the wall and responded. All but the cheapest package now offers unlimited calls and texts across all the telcos. So from £20 you can have unlimited everything except data. Now you pay through the nose for that. £20 plan = 1gb £30 plan = 3gb. No such think as an unlimited data phone plan anymore. Suddenly all the apps are more expensive than using the phone as a phone.

      1. TwistUrCapBack

        Re: Communication, Communication, Communication

        quote " No such think as an unlimited data phone plan anymore. "

        I have a 3 PAYG sim ..

        £15 a month gets me 300 mins, 3000 texts, and all you can eat data.

        Thank you very much

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Communication, Communication, Communication

      "Who shall we buy next, Yahoo & Flickr?"

      Hopefully AOHell. Sink two boats with one torpedo.

      Or get Yahoo! and AOL to link up first. Make it a nice threesome.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Communication, Communication, Communication

      Laughter turns to tears when Apple and Google decide to kiss and make up (or at least put the boot in together) and link their messaging services - then who really needs WhatsApp?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Communication, Communication, Communication

        Laughter turns to tears when Apple and Google decide to kiss and make up

        Luckily for Facebook/WhatsApp both Apple and Google desire what Facebook has, and wouldn't cooperate with anyone if the end result wasn't exclusive to them.

  9. Ted Treen

    Speak for yourself...

    "...The biggest idiot today isn't Facebook. It's us..."

    Not if you never had, currently don't have, and never will have a Facebook account or presence.

    1. Captain Hogwash

      Re: Speak for yourself...

      It's us for allowing politicians to give our data away. If we're going to let them pass it on to a third party they should at least do it, for our benefit, at a price that does more than cover administration costs. It's generally a good idea to look beyond the headline. Particularly of one of Andrew's articles.

    2. Ian Michael Gumby

      @Ted Treen ...Re: Speak for yourself...

      You may not use facebook.

      I may not use facebook.

      But I'll wager that you have family members that use facebook.

      They put up a family photo on their 'wall' and tag the images. Now your face is on facebook. They know who you are. With Whatsapp, they have your phone number, your email, and your relationship to your family members who are on facebook.

      You and I are idiots by association.

      The only way to escape is to become unplugged.

      You can go underground if you want to... but it means taking some steps that will reduce your exposure but doesn't remove it completely....

    3. Eddy Ito
      Thumb Up

      Re: Speak for yourself...

      You are aware the whole point of all this is so they can assemble your social network from the outside, aren't you? It's pretty trivial for them to make some assumptions when you show up on the contact lists of Julie, Frank and Tom and so does Jill, Joey and Kate it will be a fairly safe bet that you also know Jill, Joey and Kate especially when they reference Julie's pictures and one has the caption "A night out with Kate, Joe and Ted" and Frank's feed that say "My buddy Ted just got this new car and I was surprised how well the Tata Nano rides".

      You don't have to sell yourself out, others will happily do it for you. Thumbs up for trying, it's too late for me but I hope you succeed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Speak for yourself...

        re: Eddy Ito

        Oh, great. Most of the people who have my phone number are aging strippers.

        1. Jan 0 Silver badge

          Re: Speak for yourself...

          Are you sure they're not ageing stripers?

    4. Mage

      Re: Speak for yourself...

      What about your friends and/or relatives with your details? Are none of them on Facebook or Whatsapp etc?

    5. b0hem1us

      Re: Speak for yourself...

      Wrong! How many idiot friends with your phone number in the dialer who use this do you have?

    6. Chris 244

      Missed the point

      The article is written by a Brit on a British website commenting on the British populace being sold out by their elected leaders for a fraction of a fraction of the value of what is being sold.

      Facebook/WhatsApp is the setup, the HSCIC scheme is the punchline.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "And they're not the biggest mugs. We are"

    NO! *You* are. I'm not mug enough to use fakebook.

    An online directory of total mugs, said it for years but ignored. Suppose it suits it's users.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At least the way I read it, the last sentence of the article refers to the HSCIC selling our medical data for next to nothing, not to individuals who use social networks (not that is any more valid, as others have pointed out, you don't need to use Facebook or WhatsApp for them to slurp data from you, you'd need to completely disassociate yourself from anyone who uses social networks in order to avoid this sort of slurping, and have done so quite a while ago).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I wouldn't be so smug just yet!

      I hope for your sake that everyone you've ever known or will ever know, never signs up. The second they sign up you are tagged by association!

      Why do you think Mr Zuck keeps buying all these companies? To plug gaps in his knowledge of the world where people like yourself are, those who refuse to get sucked in. You my friend are worth a shit load of money as you keep skirting the fringes, so they have to get ever more creative way to find you somehow. $16bn for a millions of phone numbers and even better a directory detailing how they're connected! Bloody hell, a gift from heaven for Zuck! All he has to do now is tie that back to his on modest warehouse of data and he's laughing all the way to the bank, he will beating the marketing firms off with a shitty stick 'cos they will be beating his door down to get in his good books and get a look at his priceless warehouse of data. Don't kid yourself you're not in there, we all are to greater or lesser extent.

      Now do you still feel safe because you personally never signed up, or are you now worried that one of your mates or family has signed up and sold you out to Zuck's dirty little empire?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The biggest idiot today isn't Facebook.

    It's the people who, after reading all the "nice" things Facebook does, still want to sign up

    and give them all their private data !

  12. Professor Clifton Shallot


    Removed WhatsApp this morning following the news.


    As far as medical records go I suppose there's a possible universal benefit in having the data open to examination which does not obviously apply to address books.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Uninstalled

      But did you delete your WhatsApp account? You'll need to reinstall WhatsApp so you can delete it that if you didn't.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Uninstalled

      Removed WhatsApp this morning following the news.

      And what guarantee do you have that WhatsApp has actually deleted all the data it stole from you?

      Some of my phone data is of very high end clients - I am required to read all the T&Cs of applications before I install them and WhatsApp never made the grade, not only because of its data slurping, but also because it does so as a US company, and is thus simply incapable of protecting end user data.

      Your privacy is like virginity: easy to lose, impossible to reclaim, but with less fun when it happens.

      1. Professor Clifton Shallot

        Re: Uninstalled

        And what guarantee do you have that WhatsApp has actually deleted all the data it stole from you?

        None, of course. Unlike you I have absolutely nothing of any real importance to worry about and I'll be honest that I am not too fussed about the whole data slurping thing on a personal level, I just wanted to do whatever is the equivalent in this scenario of voting with my feet.

    3. Number6

      Re: Uninstalled

      Yes, WhatsApp account deleted and app removed from phone here too. As mentioned by someone else, there's no way of checking that they have really deleted the information.

      I never had Facebook on my phone and I've never bothered giving them my phone number by other means (and most of what I have told them is not entirely accurate anyway...), so it'll be a bit irritating if they acquire it by this means.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Facebook Messenger maintains a lead in the USA" along with the largest iPhone user base, you can see why everyone else thinks their a country of mugs.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The biggest idiot today isn't Facebook. It's us.

    yessir, it's you, and all other users. So, what are you (idiots) going to do about it? Click a "thumb down" button? Ah, not invented / patented yet - "thumb down" to that! Well, twitter about it, let the world know about the best course of action and re-twitter it to the stars!

  15. sorry, what?

    Personal massaging

    Turn on vibrate, discretely position your device and get a mate to send (14, 1, 2) to you over and over again

  16. HereWeGoAgain

    Known reveune stream for one thing

    After one year free it is one dollar a year. Paying users...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Known reveune stream for one thing

      And they only need about 1/3 of all the people earth to actually pay to get a return on their investment (in about 10 years).

  17. frank ly

    empty Contacts in my phone

    I don't use the Contacts functionality on my Android phone, since I know they will be sniffed and copied by Google and many other apps on there. Many apps need permission to access your contacts in order to work - god alone (and the developers) know why. I use ColorNote which has the ability to recognise a phone number in a Note and highlight it and push it into the dialer for you. Interestingly, Evernote used to have that capability, but it was removed with an update about a year ago.

    How do I know that Colornote won't sniff the phone numbers in my Notes? I don't, but at least it's only one organisation to trust, instead of many.

  18. JDX Gold badge

    If my phonebook is worth £25 and my medical data £100s...

    ... why don't you just offer me the money directly? I bet loads of people would voluntarily sell their information and would at least know they ARE selling it.

  19. Bury the Hammer


    OR, they're buying out the competition because they're afraid of them. Or afraid of a competitor nicking them. Y'know, like, the reason they bought out Instagram?

  20. Camilla Smythe

    Eh.. ?

    I thought El Reg forums were inhabited with intelligent commentards. Based on above comments along the lines [smug]'Meh. I don't use Facebook'[/smug] I really have to wonder if there is any electrical activity localised in the associated grey matter.

    Hint: If 'your mate' uses Facebook and he 'knows your number', other contact details, Facebook, et al, will know it as well. Are we feeling Smug now?

    1. Daniel B.

      Re: Eh.. ?

      There's only one commenter stating that smug thing … and it's right-winger troll Ted Treen. Don't worry too much about him, and what you stated has already been stated to him as well. :)

    2. mrjohn

      Re: Eh.. ?

      yeah, well I don't have any mates either

  21. itscoldhere

    They're not doing it to get access to your phonebook...

    they're doing it for self-preservation reasons. Google's recent (brushed-off) $1B offer for WhatsApp was in the same vein.

    1. Number6

      Re: They're not doing it to get access to your phonebook...

      Ironically I would have been less bothered by Google buying it. They already have my phone number because I opted to join the Android ecosystem rather than the iOS or one of the less popular options. I sort of assume they know everything I do with my phone anyway, even though I don't use GMail or any of their other services apart from maps and search.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I find it staggering that on a website frequented by supposedly technically competent people, so many believe that not personally having a Facebook account of their own means Facebook won't have access to a big lump of data about them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Exactly!, It would be nice if there was a way to see what is known about you on facebook, and then have a way to remove it though. Can you create an account, search, delete info, and then delete said account?

  23. Irongut

    they're not the biggest mugs. We are

    What do you mean we Tonto?

    FB may have paid $45 for your phone book but I am not on What'sApp, Facebook, Twitter or any other social network (apart from Steam if you count that) so they aren't getting anything on me.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: they're not the biggest mugs. We are

      And nobody that you're friends with either right? And you only ever browse the web in incognito mode yeah? Because otherwise Facebook already know your email address and name because they've pulled in all of the address book of one of your friends or family, and now they've just got your phone number as well. They can also manage to drop cookies on your machine on some sites.

      They know all the people who are friends with you, and even what they say about you behind your back on facebook.

      Just because *you* don't have a facebook account doesn't mean they don't know quite a bit about you already.

    2. mickey mouse the fith

      Re: they're not the biggest mugs. We are

      "What do you mean we Tonto?

      FB may have paid $45 for your phone book but I am not on What'sApp, Facebook, Twitter or any other social network (apart from Steam if you count that) so they aren't getting anything on me."

      Oh but they are. As many have said above, it only takes one person to have you in their phones contact list, tag you on a photo, or mention your name on facebook and the hive mind will be making connections and gradually profiling you.

      As an example, I dont do any sort of social media, never use my real name online, and my phone spits out random data when an app requests access to my contactlist or location data etc (xprivacy ftw), and yet there are still images of me, with my fucking name tagged onto them and indexed in google images thanks to mates who have uploaded these things to facebook and not heeded any warnings about what an invasion of privacy doing so is.

      So unless you have no friends/colleagues and never go anywhere where people know your name, you WILL be a datapoint in some marketing sleazes spreadsheet and be known and identifiable to the wider internet.

      Very scary really.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: they're not the biggest mugs. We are

        "Scary"? What's so scary? Serious question. Why do people fear everyone knowing everything about everyone? People can still have privacy at home, behind closed curtains and locked doors. But everywhere else is now open. Welcome to the new world.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: they're not the biggest mugs. We are

          Scary?... well, say you a medical researcher and animal rights activists are targetting you. Or you have some nutter ex-gf or bf stalking you, or cyber bullies if you are at school. Or that embarrasing incident at Christmas party that causes you social drama at home or might come up in a job interview. Or you have non mainstream political or sexual orientation that might not align with your job. Or you facebook your pictures on holiday broadcasting that your home is empty and your new xbox that you uploaded pictures of are there. Or just enough that someone can steal your identity and run up credit card bills or implicate you in other crimes.

          I come from a place and time where being identified as family member of someone in the security forces could get you murdered, it happened to many.

          Some of us don't want to live our lives in public, we do not crave or seek publicity or feel the urge to share a picture of our meals.

          A basic tenet of security is need to know. Facebook and whoever just don't need to know.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: they're not the biggest mugs. We are

          "People can still have privacy at home, behind closed curtains and locked doors."

          Not if you have a phone, no you can't. Engage your brain please, or just move to North Korea. They already have an edge on the rest of the states.

    3. Jan 0 Silver badge

      @Ironpaunch Re:What do you mean we Tonto?

      "Tonto"?? I think you mean "paleface" or "ke-mo sah-bee."/"kemo sabe".

      Beer for the Ojibwa

  24. Elmer Phud


    "WhatsApp notoriously rifles through your address book, scoops up your phone numbers, and uploads them to its servers."

    And there was me thinking that LinkedIn had sewn up that area

  25. DrXym

    Could be a blessing disguise

    Google had a hidden feature in Android to disable certain app permissions even if the app manifest said it needed them. This was highly desirable functionality and long overdue. Other smart phone operating systems can deny access to certain data regardless of what the app says. So it was annoying that this feature not only failed to materialise publicly but was removed entirely.

    But perhaps if Facebook gets serious about gobbling phone data that Google might think to reimplement this functionality. They could implement it on security / privacy grounds and I think they'd be safe from lawsuits providing they could demonstrate their own apps could be blocked too. But I suspect Google would know as well as anybody that people would be more inclined to block permissions on 3rd party apps than they would on the apps they get with their phone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Could be a blessing disguise

      I thought they removed that in the latest release?

      1. mickey mouse the fith

        Re: Could be a blessing disguise

        "I thought they removed that in the latest release?"

        Its still there I think, they just keep hiding it deeper with each revision of the o.s.

        There are apps floating around xda and elsewhere that expose its functionality again.

        My guess is that Google dont want people with little knowledge of Android fiddling around and disabling vital permissions for things like the play store or the dialer and then complaining that the phone doesnt work properly rather than anything nefarious.

  26. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Big Brother

    Slippery slope

    But how long will it be before "log-in with Facebook" is no longer an option, but the only way to access most sites, including the Gov ones?

  27. Rob Willett

    The cost per user just went up...

    Since discovering that Facebook has brought WhatsApp I have just deleted it from my phone. Not that I ever used it, not even once, but other friends have it and suggested I try it. Now I can't comment on what Facebook will do with WhatsApp but I'd hate to know. Now I need to look at what information WhatsApps did capture on me and see if there's the slightest chance I can delete it before FB gets their mits on it. I do realise the FB probably have a mass of data anyway, but I'll do what I can to fly against the inevitable...

    I'd also like to thank Facebook for freeing up a few precious MB on my phone by their actions.

    1. Number6

      Re: The cost per user just went up...

      I'd also like to thank Facebook for freeing up a few precious MB on my phone by their actions.

      I'd like to free up a few more by removing the pre-installed FB app from my phone but that's not quite so trivial. I haven't given it any data even though I keep finding that it's running and force-kill it, so who knows what information it's already uploaded on the offchance that it can use it? (Interesting question, given that I never gave permission, so I would hope the anwer is 'none'.)

  28. Aoyagi Aichou

    Lost battle

    I bet most people just don't give a damn what happens with the data about them. And I can't think of any argument useful against "So what they know where I live, who I talk to and where I work? I have nothing to hide.".

  29. JimmyPage


    Like some people commenting here, I don't use Facebook.

    However, unlike some people here, I accept that doesn't keep my data away from Facebook. The second someone who has your contact details in their hotmail/google/whatever address book let's Facebook slurp it[1] you're done for. Facebook now knows you exist. As more friends join up, Facebook can work out your age, your sex, your income, your likes, your dislikes. And if someone uploads a picture with you in it, you could even be tagged.

    [1]How come Facebook is allowed to ask for the password to a hotmail account ? Anyone else did that, it'd be criminal.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Colour me dumb, but ...

    Why should I care who has my phone number?

    It is in the phone book (though it used to be unlisted, that option is no longer available to me).

    I screen my calls (no CID = no answer), and anyone with a sub-continental accent gets "click" instantly.

    Other than that, what are Farcebook going to do other than spam me with SMSs (which the telcos do anyway)?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Colour me dumb, but ...

      I agree. I don't see what the big fuss is. I also screen calls. I pretty much just ignore or filter out any comms I can't be bothered with. It's no hardship, the tech makes it easy. So okay, Facebook will now be able to join some dots between contacts, but so what?

      I think we take privacy too far these days. It's like every tiny bit of personal data needs to be controlled. That's not how the modern world works, people just need to adapt.

      1. xerocred

        Re: Colour me dumb, but ...

        Then you haven't had a nutter ex girlfriend constantly calling you up. Ok ignore the call. Then the voice mailbox fills up with silent calls, each sending an sms notification. I hope I wasn't in danger from this ex... but worried enough to call the police on one occasion and buy fire extinguishers for the home and office...

        of course she had my numbers... but some people are unlucky to get the attention of simular anonymous nutters..who shouldn't have access. It's not nice.

  31. This post has been deleted by its author

  32. NomNomNom


    It's the NSA

    It's the NSA

    It's the NSA

    It's the NSA

    It's the NSA

    1. Scorchio!!

      Re: hint

      The NSA don't need 'WhatsApp'; they already have it.

  33. NotWorkAdmin

    So......what do I do about it?

    Wondering if anyone, anyone at all, has anything useful to add here. It's always seemed strange that it's even legal for a third party to share my data without my consent. Britain (and of course the US) have enormous numbers of laws for pretty much everything and this isn't covered in there somewhere? I seem to recall something called the Data Protection Act - what the hell does it actually do?

  34. 080

    Where is the value?

    I am not naive enough to think that my mobile number is confidential, after all I put it on all sorts of forms, give it to all sorts of companies, have it printed on little bits of card which I freely give away.

    My question is, what value added use can this number have? since I make a hobby of being anti advert.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great analysis, but flawed.

    Facebook could get your number tomorrow and you would give it them, like you did with Google and Microsoft recently.

    No. The real reason is that as in Asia where social networks spawn from chat apps and everyone uses them, so too if whatsapp where to come out of beta-like product status and be as good as the Asian apps it would also become your social network of choice from pure ease of use.

    Of the 450mln users I'd bet they are all just a subset of Facebook users. That means Facebook would lose a huge number of existing customers to it.

    So you aimed at the nail in your article, and then completely missed the head by going off tangent and thinking phone numbers was the real reason.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not disagreeing with your comment, which is valid in itself. However, the telephones are very important piece of the puzzle. The telephone numbers will enable Facebook to connect more people, people who at present may not be using any social network. And those connections can yield other useful info when you factor in details from call logs.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who founded WhatsApp?

    Is it a branch of the NSA?

    Orwell, of course, was right as well as wrong. He rightly saw that the general public would actually like Big Brother. He was wrong in not realising that they would actually pay for the televisions that watched them with their own money, and the more they were able to watch them, the more people would apy for them.

  37. alexmcm

    why didn't the just buy Blackberry?

    It would have been cheaper and they would have got BBM, and a phone manufacturer to make more Facebook phones.

    Why 16 beellion for. A BBM imitator?

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Re: why didn't the just buy Blackberry?

      Because people actually use WhatsApp?

    2. Daniel B.

      Re: why didn't the just buy Blackberry?

      Because BBM actually does it right. Instead of giving away and slurping through your phone number, they use a BB PIN that is unrelated to the phone number itself. (It is related to a BB device if the user's using a BlackBerry, but that is less of a concern.) Thus BBM is useless to Facebook as they don't get Grand Theft Data upon buying that stuff.

  38. YARR
    Big Brother

    One acquisition for Facebook, one giant leap for the chosen people's Ultimate World Order

    It's not just one member of the tribe scratching another's back.

    It's a key step to implementing their dream of an Ultimate World Order - a world order that can never be opposed. A prison planet with them as the master tribe for all eternity, established by psychopathic deception on the grandest scale.

    They want to know everything about everyone, to crush all opposition. Anyone identified as a potential threat to their social control network is marginalized, and their family, friends and contacts identified then "persuaded" to betray them.

    Carry on Facebooking, Whatsapping, and don't ever change your phone number. Consume, conform, suck up the propaganda lies, and be content with your servitude, Untermensch.

  39. Shannon Jacobs

    Who said spamming doesn't create corporate value?

    Me, that's who, but maybe I was wrong. Am I the only one who recognizes this company name solely from the spam? Even if it's a Joe job, and even if their software works, and even if they actually have lots of real users (rather than just a lot of email addresses from spammer CDs), even if ALL of these favorable conditions are true, then you still can't convince me this company is worth $19 billion, now or in the foreseeable future.

    Hey, but as the Zuck says, if you got it, flaunt it, and right now Facebook can flaunt $19 billion.

    Me? If I was a betting man, then I would be betting that the due diligence is about to explode in Facebook's face.

  40. Charles Manning

    This absolutely confirms

    that we ARE the product.

    This aquistition does not provide the users with any services. All that it does is enhance the data mining potential for FB's true customers, whomever they might be.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem is...

    ...all the morons who jumped on "teh web" starting in the late 90s. They don't understand nor want to understand how it works. So they've doomed the thing. Where is my handset modem? Maybe we should take to the short (air) wave... Ohhh the unwashed masses are to tiring. Why don't you guys just be happy with your TV sets? It's time for a new network. It should have such a high entry level that companies will not even try to monetise it. God damn greed. Avarice. Lame. Boring. Unoriginal. The network should be so slow that no one will want to use it for images, videos, and all the other lame things that the slaves want.

  42. BleedinObvious

    They don't phone you, they join databases

    Phone numbers are a great join-key for merging massive databases from separate vendors (as are emails). Value's not in the phone number for phoning you, but in the info other companies sell who ALSO have your phone number.

  43. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Good stuff by Orlowski is actually good.

    I recommend that he just stop writing about "Glubal Warming" and "Muh Copyright Theft" for a couple of years of chillout period.

  44. bigtimehustler

    Of course, the valuation is only insane if you couldn't get it cheaper. If that's what it takes for the company to sell, that's what it takes. If you need the data it really doesn't matter what others think the 'market rate' for it is, its not available on the market. It is available from one company, that can choose not to sell. It is the same as walking up to a home owner who isn't selling his house and asking to buy his house off him, if you offer the market rate he probably won't sell, but make him an offer he can't refuse...and well, the house is yours.

  45. Derek Kingscote
    Big Brother

    It's worse than you think!

    It's worse than you think!

    Databases of the telephone book and the electoral register are commercially available, so it's a [relatively] trivial task to run every phone number they have hoovered up and reverse engineer from that, who that number relates to, where the address is and who lives there. The postcode will give them the likely socioeconomic group you [and all your contacts] are in.

    Targeted marketing doesn't get any better than this.

    Of course GCHQ and the NSA will want the reverse engineered data. They'll be _very_ interested in who you associate with, and you won't be able to lie when you get the 5.0am visit!

    Oh, and they probably hoovered up all your data before you got off, so it's too late now!

    Who knew that Big Brother would be reincarnated as Mark Zuckerberg ?

    No need to worry, just trot off now and get on with the rest of your [spied on] life!


  46. Christian Berger

    It does make sense from multiple aspects

    First of all Facebook sees a competitor in WhatsApp. And a simple way to deal with it is to buy it, particularly if you have lots of (virtual) money.

    Second it makes sense for the bank selling it, since it means they can turn some of the valuation into actual money without the market collapsing. Think about it, if you have 10% of and you want to sell your share on the stock market, the market will collapse and you'll end up with a small fraction of what it's worth. If you can sell it to another .com company, you will get part of your shares in actual money. So you can turn "worthless paper" into other "worthless paper", plus actual money.

  47. zen1
    IT Angle

    I really don't have anything to contribute...

    other than I really hate Zuck and his fucked up company. I'm a person, not a data set, and if I had the slightest interest in facebook I would have joined, but I didn't so I don't believe he's (et. al) are entitled to any of my contacts.

    Flame away...

  48. OrsonX

    $19 billion!!!!

    How long does it take to re-coup THAT kind of money?!!

  49. MikeYates

    We need "Permissions" legislation

    I think the central issue here is "Apps Permissions".

    When a messaging app says it needs access to "read the contacts list" in order to "facilitate finding your friends", one would reasonably assume that it wishes to match names with phone numbers, one at a time, locally. What WhatsApp does (as discovered by a US congressional enquiry into privacy) is upload your WHOLE contacts-list to its own servers for comparison there and keep it, even when you have uninstalled the app and "closed your account" with them.

    I would like all permissions to be optional. If the default is not chosen, the app may not function correctly, but it should THEN explain why it needs the access.

    Google, Apple and Microsoft are plainly not going to lose revenue by agreeing to that, so we need UN guidelines for national legislation.

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