A hot potato: WhatsApp has reversed its decision to delete the accounts of users who refuse to sign its new privacy policy. However, those who are adamant that they won't share their data with Facebook will be bombarded with reminders and eventually have their accounts severely restricted.

WhatsApp announced a controversial new privacy policy for non-EU users in January that allows their account data to be shared with the messaging app's owner, Facebook. The service has shared some information, such as phone numbers, with its parent since 2016, but there were fears that the new policy would allow Facebook to access private WhatsApp conversations.

While private conversations remain encrypted, messages sent to and from businesses may be shared, and Facebook can use the data for targeted advertising.

"We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings, including the Facebook Company Products," states the policy.

The public outcry saw WhatsApp delay the signing deadline from February 8 to May 15. It warned that those who refuse to sign would eventually have their accounts deleted.

WhatsApp has now eased that penalty. "No one will have their accounts deleted or lose functionality," it writes, though accounts will see their features restricted.

Anyone who doesn't sign the policy will keep receiving reminders to do so. Eventually, these will become persistent, at which point users will start losing functions.

"You won't be able to access your chat list, but you can still answer incoming phone and video calls. If you have notifications enabled, you can tap on them to read or respond to a message or call back a missed phone or video call," explains WhatsApp.

"After a few weeks of limited functionality, you won't be able to receive incoming calls or notifications and WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to your phone."

It's possible to export your WhatsApp chat history to other messaging services that support the feature, such as Telegram. The company reminded users that inactive accounts are automatically deleted after 120 days.