rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Getahead » Is WhatsApp violating privacy laws?

Is WhatsApp violating privacy laws?

Last updated on: January 30, 2013 14:01 IST

Is WhatsApp violating privacy laws?

     Next

Next
Satyakam Pradhan

WhatsApp, one of world's most popular instant messaging apps is embroiled in a controversy over storing contact lists of app users on their servers. Canadian and Dutch authorities feel this violates their privacy laws. What do you think?

Click HERE to post your opinion/experience.

Click NEXT to know more about the controversy


Photographs: whatsapp.com
Tags: Dutch

     Next

Is WhatsApp violating privacy laws?

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

After four years of providing free instant text messaging services, they are suddenly said to be violating their users' privacy. Are they really doing so?

WhatsApp is developed by California-basede WhatsApp Inc. What it does is it provides a free alternative for text messaging. Along with that you can also share photos, videos, files etc. over your data connection. Now, WhatsApp is appearing to be contravening international privacy law by accessing the users' whole phone book.

What actually is contravening the privacy law? Here's what the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and Dutch Data Protection authority released in a joint report that says:

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.


Photographs: whatsapp.com

Prev     Next

Is WhatsApp violating privacy laws?

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

When smartphone owners install WhatsApp in their cellphones, the app immediately scans the contact book for numbers and to match WhatsApp accounts attached to those numbers. If any matches are found then those numbers are added into the WhatsApp profile.

The users have no control over this process, so WhatsApp actually records both users' and non-users' number, and fails to delete the numbers of the non-users of WhatsApp which harms the privacy (except iPhone 5 because iOS 6 version of WhatsApp has the option to manually add contacts from the contact list). And that was found to be the contravening issue according to the International Privacy Law.

In WhatApp's privacy policy, they mentioned that they are going to access the contact list and scan and store the numbers. Below is a short section from WhatsApp's privacy policy:

You hereby give your express consent to WhatsApp to access your contact list and/or address book for mobile phone numbers in order to provide and use the Service. We do not collect names, addresses or e-mail addresses, just mobile phone numbers.When smartphone owners install WhatsApp in their cellphones, the app immediately scans the contact book for numbers and to match WhatsApp accounts attached to those numbers. If any matches are found then those numbers are added into the WhatsApp profile.

The users have no control over this process, so WhatsApp actually records both users' and non-users' number, and fails to delete the numbers of the non-users of WhatsApp which harms the privacy (except iPhone 5 because iOS 6 version of WhatsApp has the option to manually add contacts from the contact list). And that was found to be the contravening issue according to the International Privacy Law.

In WhatApp's privacy policy, they mentioned that they are going to access the contact list and scan and store the numbers. Below is a short section from WhatsApp's privacy policy:

You hereby give your express consent to WhatsApp to access your contact list and/or address book for mobile phone numbers in order to provide and use the Service. We do not collect names, addresses or e-mail addresses, just mobile phone numbers.


Photographs: whatsapp.com

Prev     Next

Is WhatsApp violating privacy laws?

Prev     More
Prev

More

But they have nothing to say about the storage of numbers and deleting them from servers after certain period, which is actually a violation of privacy.

WhatsApp hasn't said anything about the report yet, and the regulators said that they'll be monitoring WhatsApp and may begin to impose penalties if no satisfactory action is taken soon.

As a WhatsApp user, I think I should be saying something. I've been using WhatsApp for a long time; yes they have accessed my phone book and scanned all my numbers but it didn't seem like they're doing anything harmful with those numbers. Like they're not harassing my contacts, not spamming them, not provoking them to join WhatsApp... nothing at all! Yes they have the numbers but they're not selling them. If this is the thing, then what's wrong with the whole process?

But again, privacy must be honoured and law must be abided by. So, WhatsApp should take necessary measures to avoid penalty imposition. They have an impressive image in the smartphone users' mind for being clean and decent always, and if that image gets spoiled once, it will take long to restore it.

Honestly speaking neither me nor other WhatsApp users would want to lose it.


Photographs: whatsapp.com
Tags:

Prev     More