WhatsApp Co-Founder Leaves Over Data Controversy


Founder and CEO of WhatsApp Jan Koum will leave because of clashes with Facebook, which acquired the start-up in 2014. Koum confirmed the decision in a Facebook post.

Koum follows another WhatsApp executive, Brian Acton, who left last year after publicly criticizing Facebook's decision to put ads on WhatsApp. Acton's public comments have continued; in March, when Facebook was in the news for the Cambridge Analytic controversy, he posted, "It is time. #deletefacebook."

Privacy was also paramount to Koum, who said WhatsApp was designed "around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible." We can see how this stance would conflict with Facebook's ad strategy, which targets users based on many known characteristics.

Mark Zuckerberg has been gracious about Koum's departure, at least publicly. He responded to Koum's post on Facebook:

Jan: I will miss working so closely with you. I'm grateful for everything you've done to help connect the world, and for everything you've taught me, including 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.


  • Describe the culture clash between Facebook and WhatsApp. What do you think went wrong during the acquisition process?
  • Assess Koum's and Zuckerberg's posts. How well do they represent their companies and themselves?
  • What's your view of Acton's open criticism of Facebook: disloyal, hurtful, authentic, courageous, or something else?