EU says WhatsApp agrees to be more transparent about policy changes

The European Commission announced on Monday that Meta’s popular messaging app WhatsApp has agreed to offer more transparency about its privacy policy changes.

Back in January 2021, the company introduced a privacy policy update which led to a global backlash due to rumors that it would mandate data sharing with other Meta companies. WhatsApp first said that users wouldn’t be able to use the app if they didn’t accept the updated policy by February 8, but later postponed it to May 15

While users were in search of WhatsApp alternatives like Signal and Telegram, the company said it would stick with the policy, rejecting claims that it would allow it to read personal messages. After facing legal challenges in various markets including India and Germany, the company later said it wouldn’t limit functionality if a user didn’t accept the policy, but that didn’t rescue it from consumer complaints in Europe and a $266 million fine by Irish regulators.

Eventually, WhatsApp updated its privacy policy in November the same year, adding more detailed information on how it uses data, its global operations, and its legal bases for data processing. However, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) said in a complaint that WhatsApp breached EU laws and that it wasn’t transparent enough about its policy update.

On Monday, the European Commission said in a statement that the company ‘’committed to being more transparent on changes to its terms of service’’. It has also agreed to ‘’make it easier for users to reject updates when they disagree with them, and will clearly explain when such rejection leads the user to no longer be able to use WhatsApp’s services.’’

In addition, WhatsApp confirmed that it doesn’t share personal data with third parties or other Meta-owned companies for ad purposes, the Commission added.

Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice, said: “I welcome WhatsApp’s commitments to changing its practices to comply with EU rules, actively informing users of any changes to their contract, and respecting their choices instead of asking them each time they open the app. Consumers have a right to understand what they agree to and what that choice entails concretely, so that they can decide whether they want to continue using the platform.

Written by Tuna Cetin

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