WhatsApp’s not been having a good few weeks, and it looks like things won’t be going back to normal anytime soon. Its latest crisis comes from the U.K. data protection regulator telling WhatsApp it should not hand over user data to parent company Facebook.
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WhatsApp has said that the new terms and conditions only apply to data collected when users interact with businesses, while everything else is staying exactly the same. That change, according to WhatsApp, will only take place outside of the EU and U.K., as those regions have much more stringent data protection rules than the U.S. and the rest of the world.
According to Elizabeth Denham, the U.K.’s information commissioner (via The Guardian (opens in new tab)), WhatsApp already committed to not sharing user data with Facebook until it could prove possible under GDPR regulations. Those rules still apply, despite the fact the U.K. has left the EU, which is why WhatsApp promised nothing was changing to the way it handled user data from the country.
But now the responsibility falls on her to ensure WhatsApp doesn’t break those rules, and Denham's told WhatsApp to say as much.
While this is good news for Brits, since it means WhatsApp has legal obligations to not share their data with Facebook, it’s not so good for everyone else. Speaking to a parliamentary committee, Denham pointed out that the specifics don’t matter as much as the fact that WhatsApp decided to “suddenly change the contract that they have with the users” which has led to concern over the “ trustworthiness and the sustainability of the promises made to users”.
It feels like it’s now only a matter of time until other governments, including the U.S., start asking questions about the relationship between WhatsApp and Facebook as well. Especially considering the country is missing many of the same laws and agreements that are supposed to keep European WhatsApp data away from Facebook.
Of course if that’s not enough to reassure you, you can always jump ship and join one of the best WhatsApp alternatives. Just make sure to bring over as many of your contacts as you can, otherwise the whole endeavor is pretty moot.