WhatsApp is one of world’s most popular instant messaging apps. After 4 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 Californian ‘WhatsApp Inc’ and what it does is – provides a free alternative for text messaging and you can also share photos, videos, files etc. over data connection. Now, WhatsApp is appearing to be contravening the international privacy law by accessing the users’ whole contact 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 on a joint report that says the reason –
“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.”
When smartphone owners install WhatsApp in their cellphones, it 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 the contravening issue according to the International Privacy Law.
“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 email addresses, just mobile phone numbers.”
But they have nothing 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 honored and law must be abode 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. And honestly saying; me and no other WhatsApp user would want to lose it.