New report claims WhatsApp Messenger violates privacy laws


WhatsApp Messenger is a wildly popular cross-platform SMS replacement service. It allows you to group chat and send media files to other users, and it’s estimated to have in upwards of 300 million users.

Well if you’re one of those 300 million users, you might be interested to know that according to a new report, the app violates international privacy laws due to the way it handles Address Book data…

Reuters (via MacRumors) reports:

“WhatsApp, one of the most popular apps in the world, contravenes international privacy laws because it forces users to provide access to their entire address book, Canadian and Dutch data protection authorities said…

…The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) and the Dutch Data Protection Authority, in a joint report released on Monday, said the app violated privacy laws because users have to provide access to all phone numbers in their address book, including both users and non-users of the app.”

In iOS 6, Apple starting requiring developers to obtain user permission before their apps can access their data. But the problem is, you can only enable or disable Address Book access, you can’t pick and choose contacts.

“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,” said Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority.”

Apple has had a lot of problems over the years with iOS privacy concerns. Last year, the big story was Path. The social network was found uploading user contact data without consent. And then there was locationgate in 2011.

Anyway, according to investigators, WhatsApp says it’s soon going to start allowing manual contact input. Authorities say they are going to continue to monitor the app, and will impose penalties if it doesn’t follow through.