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Whatsapp cofounder to depart Facebook following privacy scandals

One of the founders of Whatsapp has left Facebook following a scandal around the way in which the social network has dealt with the privacy of its users.

Jan Koum confirmed his departure on his Facebook page on Monday and he also plans to resign from Facebook’s board of directors.

Whatsapp was first released on smartphones in 2009 and acquired by Facebook in 2014, at which point the platform boasted hundreds of millions of users worldwide.

Koum’s plan to exit comes after clashing with the parent company over WhatApp’s strategy and Facebook’s attempts to use its personal data and weaken its encryption.

In March 2018, the messaging app committed to not sharing user data with Facebook, prompting the UK’s privacy watchdog to drop an investigation into the company. 

“It’s been almost a decade since Brian and I started WhatsApp and it’s been an amazing journey with some of the best people,” Koum, WhatsApp’s chief executive, said in a post on his Facebook page referring to co-founder Brian Acton. “But it is time for me to move on.”

Koum did not give a date for his departure and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Acton left the messaging service company in September 2017 to start a foundation, after spending eight years with WhatsApp.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg commented on Koum’s post, saying he was grateful for what Koum taught him about encryption “and its ability to take power from centralised systems and put it back in people’s hands. Those values will always be at the heart of WhatsApp.”

Facebook has battled European regulators over a plan to use WhatsApp user data, including phone numbers, to develop products and target ads. The plan is suspended, but WhatsApp said last week it still wanted to move forward eventually.

WhatsApp, a pun on the phrase “What’s up?,” grew in popularity in part because its encrypted messages are stored on users’ smartphones and not on company servers, making the service more private.

Koum did not elaborate on his reasons for leaving, other than to say it was time to “move on” so he could spend more time “collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee”.

However, he may also have been embroiled in a rift with Facebook management over the company’s voracious appetite for personal information and WhatsApp’s dedication to user privacy, according to a Washington Post report.

In January, WhatsApp launched a business-oriented app, marking a move towards eventual monetisation of the service, which currently has more than 1.3 billion users worldwide. 

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