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WhatsApp Founder Leaves Company Over Facebook Data Strategy

The co-founder of WhatsApp, a messaging service owned by Facebook, announced he is leaving the company.

Jan Koum, who co-founded WhatsApp with Brian Acton, is leaving the company after disagreements over the messaging service’s strategy, as well as Facebook’s attempts to use its personal data and weaken its encryption.

“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, said in a post on his Facebook page, according to Reuters. “But it is time for me to move on.”

He did not give a date for his departure. Acton left the messaging service company in September to start a foundation.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded that he was grateful for what Koum taught him about encryption “and its ability to take power from centralized systems and put it back in people’s hands. Those values will always be at the heart of WhatsApp.”

Facebook has fought with European regulators over a plan to use WhatsApp user data to create products and target ads. While the plan is suspended, WhatsApp said last week it still wanted to move forward with it in the future.

Acton and Koum co-founded WhatsApp in 2009, and Facebook bought it in 2014 for $19 billion in cash and stock.

WhatsApp has accumulated more than 1 billion users, with one of its biggest selling points being that its encrypted messages are stored on users’ smartphones and not on company servers, which makes the service more private.

Since the acquisition, Facebook has tried to find ways to generate revenue from WhatsApp, which does not have advertising. In fact, WhatsApp’s management has been against advertising, explaining that they did not want to be “just another ad clearinghouse” where the engineering team “spends their day tuning data mining.”

But last year, it was revealed that WhatsApp was planning to charge companies to use some of its business-focused features.

“We want to put a basic foundation in place to allow people to message businesses and for them to get the responses that they want,” said Matt Idema, chief operating officer at WhatsApp. “We do intend on charging businesses in the future.”

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