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WhatsApp at Odds With Users Over New Privacy Policy

WhatsApp at Odds With Users Over New Privacy Policy

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Last month, one of the world’s largest messaging apps, WhatsApp, began notifying its users of the new Privacy Policy that would take effect as of 8 February 2021. The users were notified that they would no longer be able to use the app if they do not accept the new Privacy Policy, as of the effective date.

This has since sparked a public outcry of the users and the privacy rights advocates, as there were legitimate concerns over what this new Privacy Policy could mean for data privacy and the future of using this app.

What’s New?

The biggest change in the Privacy Policy and the one that produced the most backlash was that now, WhatsApp could share the user’s data with its Facebook family of companies, including Instagram and Messenger. A similar policy was introduced in 2016. However, users, at that time, were able to opt-out of this feature freely. The new changes require users to accept the new Privacy Policy as a precondition for using the app.

Another reason for concern was the lack of transparency surrounding the changes that were introduced. WhatsApp collects data such as user phone number, language, browser information, time zone, IP address, even phone’s battery level, internet service provider, or signal strength. At the time when the changes to the Privacy Policy were announced, it was unclear which data will be shared and for what reason. Adding to the confusion was the specific language used that was riddled with legal jargon (so-called “legalese”), not typically understandable to an average user.

However, messages or any other form of communication between users is still end-to-end encrypted, which means that not even WhatsApp can access such information. The end-to-end encryption that WhatsApp uses was praised by independent privacy experts, so the users may rest assured that their communications will remain private.

Nonetheless, other mentioned data will be shared with not only the Facebook family of companies but also with third parties where applicable.

Delays due to Backlash

In response to the backlash the app was facing, it was announced that the effective date of the new Privacy Policy shall be postponed until 15 May 2021, as there was a lot of confusion surrounding its application. After privacy rights advocates raised concerns over this new policy, many users began to turn to other competitor apps, such as Signal, which is known for valuing privacy and personal data protection of its users.

However, WhatsApp decided to delay the effective date of the new Privacy Policy as it will allow for a proper explanation of the changes and transparency with regard to its provisions.

WhatsApp has since published a blog post, stating the following: “We’ve heard from so many people how much confusion there is around about our recent update. There has been a lot of misinformation causing concern and we want to help everyone to understand our principles and the facts.

It remains to be seen if any further clarifications will be provided in the meantime. Nonetheless, both Facebook, as a parent company, and WhatsApp have stated their commitment to protecting their users’ personal data and will place privacy at the forefront of their business going forward.

This text is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Should you require any additional information, feel free to contact us.

By Katarina Zivkovic, Senior Associate, and Dragan Martin, Junior Associate, Samardzic, Oreski & Grbovic

Serbia Knowledge Partner

The oldest full service commercial law firm in Serbia, founded in 1991, JPM with three decades of experience in assisting local and international businesses presence and growth not only in Serbia but throughout the SEE region.

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