After India, WhatsApp faces privacy fire in EU

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NEW DELHI: Three days after WhatsApp had submitted before the Delhi high court that it would not enforce its contentious privacy policy in India till the country’s Personal Data Protection Bill was passed, the US-based company on Monday faced a barrage of complaints from the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and others over the policy update, which has prompted a global outcry and led some users to switch to rival apps Telegram and Signal.
In January, WhatsApp had introduced a privacy policy which allows it to share some data with its parent, Facebook, and other group companies. Though it clarified the changes would not affect personal conversations of its users, BEUC and eight of its members criticised the policy changes and filed complaints with the European Commission and the European network of consumer authorities, claiming WhatsApp was unfairly pressuring users to accept the new policies. “The content of these notifications, their nature, timing and recurrence put an undue pressure on users and impair their freedom of choice. As such, they are a breach of the EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices,” the groups said in a joint statement. “WhatsApp has failed to explain in plain and intelligible language the nature of the changes… This ambiguity amounts to a breach of EU consumer law which obliges companies to use clear & transparent contract terms and commercial communications,” they said.
Facebook said BEUC has got the issue wrong. “BEUC’s action is based on a misunderstanding of the purpose and effect of the update to our terms of service,” a spokesperson said. “The update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook, and does not impact the privacy of your messages with friends or family, wherever they are in the world. We would welcome an opportunity to explain the update to BEUC to clarify what it means for people.” The consumer groups urged the European network of consumer authorities & EU data protection authorities to work together to address the privacy and consumer rights concerns.


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