WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum is leaving Facebook three and a half years after the Menlo Park, California-based social media giant acquired the company he established in 2019 together with Brian Acton, the software engineer said Monday, shortly after The Washington Post reported he's quitting due to disputes with Facebook's management over data privacy practices employed by the messaging service. "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," Mr. Koum wrote on Facebook, adding he's still supportive of his team but without personally elaborating on the reasons behind his departure.
The development is leaving Facebook without both WhatsApp inventors, with Mr. Acton already leaving the firm last September and going on to co-found the Signal Foundation. The entrepreneur was also openly critical of Facebook's privacy practices in the past, having publicly called for people to delete their accounts on the world's largest social media network following the emergence of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in late March. In response to Mr. Koum's announcement, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that WhatsApp's "ability to take power from centralized systems and put it back in people’s hands" will always remain a crucial component of the messaging service, seemingly suggesting the industry veteran hasn't left the company over privacy disputes.
Mr. Koum was previously said to have been disillusioned by the manner in which Facebook treated its $19 billion purchase, particularly in regards to its stances on in-app advertising and the fact that it was pushing to merge its user data with that from its blockbuster acquisition from 2014. WhatsApp still doesn't display ads but Facebook suggested it may start doing so in the future, with the company moving to start monetizing its popular service after tripling its user base to some 1.5 billion people over the last three and a half years. EU regulators are presently also clashing with Facebook over the matter, having previously suggested they've been misled while approving the merger as Facebook claimed it doesn't have the technological capability to cross-reference WhatsApp user data with that mined by its main platform. Facebook recently started displaying ads in its Messenger app and is presently developing new WhatsApp features for businesses meant to help it start generating some returns on its major investment. Mr. Koum is now set to leave Facebook's board of directors as well, The Washington Post claims.