WhatsApp is likely to raise the minimum age to use the service in South Africa to 18, Michalsons managing attorney John Giles told MyBroadband.
It will make the change in about 18 months time, before the end of the grace period for organisations to be in full compliance with the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act.
Facebook – the owners of WhatsApp – recently changed the terms of service for WhatsApp to comply with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe.
If you live in a country in the European region, you must now be at least 16 years old to use WhatsApp.
The GDPR goes into effect in May 2018.
WhatsApp in South Africa
“The GDPR and POPI are similar when it comes to how the personal data of children must be protected, except that under the GDPR a child is effectively someone under 16 for the purposes of data protection,” said Giles.
Under POPI, a child is someone younger than 18 years. It also makes it unlawful to collect the personal data of minors without consent from a competent person.
“In our view, if WhatsApp follows the same logic they applied with the GDPR to POPI, or interpret POPI in the same way they interpreted the GDPR, they will raise the age limit to 18 in South Africa,” said Giles.
Giles emphasised that the new regulations do not make it unlawful to process children’s information, however.
“There are many ways WhatsApp could have enabled children to have an account,” he said.
“It is more a case of WhatsApp choosing not to give children accounts rather than the law stopping them from doing so.”