Whatsapp’s Privacy Policies Under EU Scrutiny

The Facebook owned messaging service Whatsapp is under the limelight once again. The companies privacy policies has been a concern for some time, and the EU data protection regulators are becoming increasingly concerned that no improvements have been made to its customer’s privacy. The Article 29 Working Party, which consists of data regulators from EU nations, believes that the new terms and conditions included in Whatsapp’s new policies are compromising the data protection of European customers.

Concerns were first raised in November 2016 when the small print of Whatsapp’s terms and conditions was updated. Facebook’s data harvest was stopped in the UK last year in an attempt to protect its users from what was seen as a breach of their personal data. In August 2017 Whatsapp was forced to add a “Notice for EU Users”, the aim of which was to protect users.

However, the EU data protection group claims that this notice “does not sufficiently address the issues of non-compliance with data protection law”. The group has also expressed that it’s frustrated with the way the issue has been handled, stating that “a satisfactory resolution to the issues previously raised has not yet been achieved despite a significant period of time having passed”.

A letter has recently been sent to Whatsapp from the EU, detailing the concerns which include the non compliance with EU regulations that consent must be specific and clear.  Whatsapp claims that users have consented to the sharing of their data, but the EU data protection group claim that users are not given adequate information to be able to agree to the terms. The group believes that “the information presented to users was seriously deficient as a means to inform their consent” and that consent “was insufficiently specific”.

Whatsapp and Facebook argue that the harvesting of data is necessary to the needs of their business, and that the terms are clear to users. However, regulators have doubts about the clarity of the company’s objectives stating “The legitimate interest ground cannot be relied upon to justify the general combination of user data across services within the Facebook family of companies without adequate user controls and safeguards,” The terms are believed to be vague and it’s unclear how the data will be used. They believe Whatsapp need to be more specific in order to make sure the public are fully informed.

The response from a spokesperson on behalf of Whatsapp is that “Over the last year we have engaged with data protection authorities to explain how our 2016 terms and privacy policy update apply to people who use WhatsApp in Europe. We remain committed to respecting applicable law and will continue to work collaboratively with officials in Europe to address their questions.”

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