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TheStreet Open House

WhatsApp's Violation Of Privacy Law Partly Resolved After Investigation By Data Protection Authorities

Canadian and Dutch data privacy guardians release findings from investigation of popular mobile app

OTTAWA and THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Jan. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ - The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) and the Dutch Data Protection Authority ( College bescherming persoonsgegevens, (CBP)) today released their findings from a collaborative investigation into the handling of personal information by WhatsApp Inc., a California-based mobile app developer.

The coordinated investigation is a global first, as two national data protection authorities conducted their work together to examine the privacy practices of a company with hundreds of millions of customers worldwide. This marks a milestone in global privacy protection.

"Our Office is very proud to mark an important world-first along with our Dutch counterparts, especially in light of today's increasingly online, mobile and borderless world," said Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada. "Our investigation has led to WhatsApp making and committing to make further changes in order to better protect users' personal information."

Jacob Kohnstamm, Chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority, adds: "But we are not completely satisfied yet. The investigation revealed that users of WhatsApp - apart from iPhone users who have iOS 6 software - do not have a choice to use the app without granting access to their entire address book. The address book contains phone numbers of both users and non-users. This lack of choice contravenes (Dutch and Canadian) 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."

Key findings and outcomes

The investigation focused on WhatsApp's popular mobile messaging platform, which allows users to send and receive instant messages over the Internet across various mobile platforms. While WhatsApp was found to be in contravention of Canadian and Dutch privacy laws, the organization has taken steps to implement many recommendations to make its product safer from a privacy standpoint. At this time however, outstanding issues remain to be fully addressed.

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