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WhatsApp's 'aggressive' Privacy Policies Sparks Complaint From EU Consumer Groups

The European Consumer Organisation filed a complaint with the European Commission against Facebook’s attempt to modify the terms of service for WhatsApp service

European Union

IMAGE: AP/UNSPLASH


The European Consumer Organisation, or BEUC, on July 12 filed a complaint with the European Commission against Facebook’s attempt to modify the terms of service for the WhatsApp messaging service. According to a press release, the BEUC, alongside eight of its members, lodged a complaint with the European Commission and the European network of consumer authorities accusing WhatsApp of breaching European consumer rights. The group said that WhatsApp has been “unduly pressuring” users to accept its new terms of use and privacy with “persistent, recurrent and intrusive notifications pushing users to accept”. 

‘Breach of EU consumer law’

The US tech firm has sought to nudge users of its messenger platforms to accept new terms of service. However, Facebook has denied that this would allow WhatsApp to share more user data with its main social platform. But, in the filing, the group urged regulators to investigate the platform’s practices and to stop them “pressuring” users to accept the new policies, believing the tactics to be in violation of EU consumer law. 

BEUC director general Monique Goyens said, "WhatsApp has been bombarding users for months with aggressive and persistent pop-up messages to force them to accept its new terms of use and privacy policy”. 

He added, “They've been telling users that their access to their app will be cut off if they do not accept the new terms. Yet consumers don't know what they're actually accepting”. 

As per the press release, the BEUC said that WhatsApp has failed to explain in plain and intelligible language the nature of the changes of the new policies, adding that it is “basically impossible” for consumers to understand what accepting these terms would mean. “This ambiguity amounts to a breach of EU consumer law which obliges companies to use clear and transparent contract terms and commercial communications,” the group said. It also urged the European network of consumer authorities and the network of data protection authorities to work in close cooperation on these issues.

'Does not impact privacy'

According to AP, WhatsApp, on the other hand, said the complaint is based on a misunderstanding of the update's purpose and effect and would welcome the opportunity to explain it to the BEUC. “Our recent update explains the options people have to message a business on WhatsApp and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data,” WhatsApp said in a prepared statement. “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". 

(Image: AP/Unsplash)

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