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WhatsApp Privacy Policy Push Hit by EU Consumer Rights Complaint

Michael Behr

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WhatsApp privacy policy
With the messaging platform’s new privacy policy being examined to determine whether it breaches data protection laws, the BCEU said it is inappropriate to push it on consumers.

Popular messaging service WhatsApp has been hit with a complaint by the European Consumer Organisation (BCEU) over claims it unfairly pressured users to accept its new privacy policy.

The group, along with eight of its members, filed the complaint with the European Commission and European consumer authorities for breaching consumer rights.

In it, the BCEU alleges that WhatsApp used “persistent, recurrent and intrusive notifications” to push users to accept the updated privacy policy. In doing so, the organisation is claiming that the messenger put undue pressure on its users, infringing their freedom of choice and breaching the EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices.

WhatsApp’s new privacy and data policy requires users to agree to share data with the platform’s parent company, Facebook. Although the content of messages will remain protected by end-to-end encryption, the app still tracks names, phone numbers, and the location of the user’s internet connection.

While unpopular, the rules change was made controversial due to the way WhatsApp implemented it. Users received a pop-up notice telling them they would need to accept the new terms or delete their app.

However, the platform said that the data-sharing terms would have been absent in the updated privacy policy applied in the EU, EEA, or the UK.

As part of the complaint, the BCEU argued that WhatsApp’s new terms are not transparent or comprehensible for users, as it failed to explain the changes in clear language. This too amounts to a breach of EU consumer law, the organisation claimed.

Furthermore, the new privacy policy is currently being scrutinised by the European Data Protection Authorities over whether it contravenes EU data protection law.


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“WhatsApp has been bombarding users for months with aggressive and persistent pop-up messages to force them to accept its new terms of use and privacy policy,” said BEUC Director General Monique Goyens.

“They’ve been telling users that their access to their app will be cut off if they do not accept the new terms. Yet consumers don’t know what they’re actually accepting. WhatsApp has been deliberately vague about this and consumers would be exposed to far reaching data processing without valid consent. That’s why we’re calling on the authorities to take swift action against WhatsApp to ensure that it respects consumer rights”.

Introduced in January this year, WhatsApp’s policy sparked a backlash that led to a major spike in downloads for rival end-to-end encrypted messengers like Signal and Telegram.

While the changes were supposed to take effect from February 8th, their unpopularity saw WhatsApp push the deadline back to May.

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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