WhatsApp violates privacy laws over phone numbers

WhatsApp contravenes international privacy laws because it forces users to provide access to their entire address book

January 28, 2013
WhatsApp

WhatsApp, one of the most popular apps in the world, contravenes international privacy laws because it forces users to provide access to their entire address book, Canadian and Dutch data protection authorities said.

WhatsApp, which ranks as one of the world’s top five best-selling apps, is an instant-messaging application for smartphones including Apple‘s iPhone and Research in Motion‘s Blackberry.

The report comes at a time of increased criticism of internet companies, such as Facebook, over the storing and sharing of personal information.

Produced by California-based WhatsApp Inc, it provides a free internet alternative to SMS, or text messaging, sending more than a billion messages every day.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) and the Dutch Data Protection Authority, in a joint report released on Monday, said the app violated privacy laws because users have to provide access to all phone numbers in their address book, including both users and non-users of the app.

“This lack of choice contravenes (Canadian and Dutch) privacy law. Both users and non-users should have control over their personal data and users must be able to freely decide what contact details they wish to share with WhatsApp,” said Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority.

WhatsApp was not immediately available to comment.

The investigators found that WhatsApp retained the mobile numbers of non-users, contravening privacy laws.

WhatsApp committed to making changes to protect users’ privacy, including allowing the manual addition of contacts, according to the investigators. In September 2012, it introduced encryption for its mobile messaging service, partly in response to concerns raised by the investigation.

The Dutch agency said it would continue to monitor WhatsApp and could impose penalties if privacy continued.

(Reporting by Sara Webb, Editing by Louise Heavens)

More Instant Messaging news

Most popular social networks, IMs on SA mobiles

Mobile instant messaging comparison

Facebook to buy Whatsapp?

Tags: Active, instant messaging, WhatsApp

Free Email Newsletter:
Subscribe

Shutterstock is the image partner of MyBroadband – technology images can be found here

Join the conversation

Connect with MyBB

twitterfacebookandroidappleblackberrynewsletterfeed

Poll

Are you working over the festive season?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

More News

Parkhurst 1Gbps fibre-to-the-home speeds tested

Fibre

A managing member of one of the ISPs offering services in Parkhurst was among the first to receive a 1Gbps fibre line, and he sent us his speedtest

FPB’s plan for online content regulation in South Africa

Cyber Government online security privacy

The Film and Publication Board says no one is being sidelined and there will be ample opportunity to discuss and change the policy document

How to avoid an email horror story

ashleymadison

When you are writing an email, imagine that it will inevitably one day end up on the Internet for everyone to see

Eskom’s R1.4 billion lunch bill

Eskom

According to reports, Eskom has awarded two catering contracts to the tune of R1.4 billion to ensure Medupi and Kusile workers are fed

Free MyBroadband Newsletter:
Subscribe
X
bool(true)