WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum has announced that he will be leaving and cutting ties with Facebook. According to reports, Koum is possibly quitting the company because of a disagreement over data sharing and 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. But it is time for me to move on. I've been blessed to work with such an incredibly small team and see how a crazy amount of focus can produce an app used by so many people all over the world,” Koum wrote in a Facebook post.

“I'm leaving at a time when people are using WhatsApp in more ways than I could have imagined. The team is stronger than ever and it'll continue to do amazing things. 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. And I'll still be cheering WhatsApp on – just from the outside. Thanks to everyone who has made this journey possible.”

Jan Koum
Jan Koum, co-founder and CEO of WhatsApp speaks at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California, Oct. 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Released in 2009, WhatsApp is a cross-platform messaging app that allows text messages, voice calls and the sharing of images and other documents. In 2014, WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion. Koum and co-founder Brain Acton stayed on to run the messaging service for Facebook. WhatsApp is one of the biggest messaging services in the world with 1.5 billion monthly users.

Acton left WhatsApp last year to start a non-profit organization, called Signal Foundation. Back in March, Acton also told his followers on Twitter to #deletefacebook when the Cambridge Analytica scandal blew up.

The Washington Post reports that Koum’s departure from Facebook is due to a disagreement over how WhatsApp manages its users’ personal data, which could weaken the app’s encryption feature. WhatsApp introduced end-to-end encryption to its mobile app back in 2016. Other WhatsApp employees are also said to have been demoralized by the disagreement that they, too, are planning to leave this November.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has responded to Koum’s announcement in the form of a comment.

“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.”

WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum announces departure from company and Facebook. REUTERS/Thomas White