NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Shares of Facebook (FB) - Get Report  were higher in late morning trading on Thursday as the Menlo Park, CA-based social networking giant is moving to monetize the free messaging service WhatsApp by allowing businesses to message users. 

The decision signals Facebook's first step to monetize the app since CEO Mark Zuckerberg purchased WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, Bloomberg reports. 

WhatsApp today announced a new change to its privacy policy allowing businesses to communicate with users. Businesses can message users about appointment reminders, delivery and shipping notifications or marketing information, the company said in a statement. 

The company will be testing the new features over the next few months.

WhatsApp said it will also share more information about its users with the "Facebook family." The data, such as a user's phone number, could be used to improve targeted ads when users are on Facebook or Instagram, the company said. 

Sharing users phone numbers would also help tackle spam and abuse, WhatsApp noted. However, the contents of individual messages will remain encrypted. 

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Separately, TheStreet Ratings objectively rated this stock according to its "risk-adjusted" total return prospect over a 12-month investment horizon. Not based on the news in any given day, the rating may differ from Jim Cramer's view or that of this articles's author. TheStreet Ratings has this to say about the recommendation:

We rate FACEBOOK INC as a Buy with a ratings score of A-. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income and expanding profit margins. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company is trading at a premium valuation based on our review of its current price compared to such things as earnings and book value.

You can view the full analysis from the report here:

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