WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum is leaving the company amid arguments with parent company Facebook over data privacy and the messaging app’s business model. Koum is a member of Facebook’s board of directors and is expected to step down. When Facebook filed its annual proxy statement earlier this month, it listed Koum as up for re-election at the company’s annual shareholder meeting. The Washington Post first broke the news.
Jan Koum’s exit from Facebook Inc. could prove costly. A speedy departure may prevent him from collecting as much as $1 billion in stock awards.
Koum said in a post on his Facebook page that he is taking time off to pursue interests such as collecting air-cooled Porsches, working on cars and playing ultimate Frisbee.
US media reports indicated that a disagreement with Facebook over the privacy of user data may have also been a factor in Koum’s decision to quit his position as a high-ranking executive and likely leave his seat on the board at the leading online social network.
“It’s been almost a decade since Brian (Acton) and I started WhatsApp, and it’s been an amazing journey with some of the best people,” Koum said in the post.
“But it is time for me to move on.”
Acton left Facebook last year to start a nonprofit.
WhatsApp boasts more than 1.2 billion users worldwide.
In a reply to Koum’s post, Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said he would miss working closely with the WhatsApp co-founder.
“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,” Zuckerberg said in his written reply.
“Those values will always be at the heart of WhatsApp.”
WhatsApp last week raised its minimum age for users in the European Union to 16 years, as the bloc prepares for a new online privacy law to come into force next month.
In an update to its terms of service, WhatsApp said the minimum age for users outside the EU was still 13 years.
WhatsApp parent Facebook has pledged to change how it handles private data to comply with the forthcoming law change.