Popular messaging app WhatsApp has a little problem on its hands at the moment. Privacy Commissioners in both Canada and The Netherlands have found that WhatsApp violates the privacy laws in both countries over how WhatsApp accesses contacts.
When you install and start using WhatsApp, it wants access to all your contacts to see if there are matches to the phone numbers. Makes sense, to be able to find people you know, but according to the Dutch and Canadian privacy commissioners, since you don’t have a choice in the matter and WhatsApp is getting access to member and nonmember numbers, this is a bad thing.
“This lack of choice contravenes (Canadian and Dutch) privacy law. Both users and non-users should have control over their personal data and users must be able to freely decide what contact details they wish to share with WhatsApp,” said Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority.
While you might take this as government interference, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner took on Facebook a couple years ago—and won. Facebook was forced to amend, update, and improve privacy settings not just for Canadians, but everyone using Facebook.
Thus far WhatsApp doesn’t have any comment on the matter, but let’s hope they take this issue seriously. Sure, WhatsApp is better with friends, so it makes sense that you would need to give it access to contacts and social networks to find said friends, however it’s all about having choice in the matter.