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MORE privacy concerns for popular messaging app

MORE privacy concerns for popular messaging app
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Last month, we reported about this popular messaging app's changes on its Terms of Service and Privacy so it could start sharing data with its mother company, Facebook.

This led to outcries from privacy protection advocates and watchdogs who see this change as a slap to its subscribers' faces. Despite the protests, this new policy continued to be ratified on September 5 and is now in effect.

The messaging service WhatsApp promised in 2014, during the Facebook sale, that they will retain their policy of not sharing user information with third parties. Privacy advocates say that the new Terms of Service breaks that promise and they are striving hard to prove that it constitutes a violation of a Federal Trade Commission order.

Now, at least two countries agree that WhatsApp has betrayed its users with the new agreement, with more that may follow suit soon.

Last week, India's Delhi High Court ordered WhatsApp to delete the data collected from users who opted out of the new Terms of Service and Privacy before September 25. The court also issued a request for WhatsApp not to share even the pre-September 25 data of customers who did not opt out.

Initial reports indicated that WhatsApp had no plans to follow India's court ruling but the company finally released a statement that it will comply.

The WhatsApp statement reads:

"WhatsApp will comply with the order from the Delhi High Court. We plan to proceed with the privacy policy and terms update in accordance with the Court's order. The Court's emphasis on the importance of user choice and consent is encouraging."

This week, Germany's data and protection agency Hamburg City DPA ordered Facebook to stop collecting data from WhatsApp and to delete any information that has already been collected.

“It has to be the 35 million WhatsApp users in Germany’s decision whether they want to connect their account with Facebook," Hamburg's data protection commissioner Johannes Caspar explained. "Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance. This has not happened."

This court order is currently under appeal by Facebook.

With these two countries spearheading the efforts to have WhatsApp review its privacy changes, other governing countries in Europe and the U.S. may be following to investigate the changes. In the U.K. in particular, the Information Commissioner's Office has launched an investigation into WhatsApp's data-sharing.

As more governments and privacy watchdogs are looking into getting involved with this Facebook and WhatsApp data-sharing saga, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for this popular messaging app.

If you haven't agreed to WhatsApp's new Terms of Service yet, you may still have time to opt out, but hurry!

WhatsApp gave users 30 days to opt out of the new privacy policy after agreeing so check if you still have the option.

Change the choice by going to Settings >> Account >> Share my account info on your WhatsApp app.

Whatsapp alternatives

If you are really concerned about the privacy implications of the new WhatsApp Terms of Service and would rather not have your info shared with Facebook, you could try other secure messaging platforms out there like Signal Private Messenger for iOS and Android.

Signal Private Messenger is an end-to-end encrypted messaging app created by Open Whisper Systems, the same company that provided WhatsApp's own encryption protocol. If you are really serious about your messaging privacy, this service may be worth a try.

To read more about WhatsApp's revamped Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, check out their legal information posted here.

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Source: Kaspersky
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