EU proposes personal data restrictions for WhatsApp

New regulations would also apply to Skype and other free messaging platforms

Text messaging

The EU is trying to push forward restrictions that would change the way messaging apps such as Facebook-owned WhatsApp ad Microsoft's Skype handle personal data.

A draft document received by Reuters revealed a number of new measures the European government hopes to bring into effect to protect user data within "Over-The-Top" (OTT) services. Although such regulations already exist, they are used to regulate mobile phone operators rather than the value-added messaging services.

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Some of the new legislation could include guaranteeing the confidentiality of communication, requiring consent to be given before the companies behind such services can process location data. Although this restriction is due to come into force in 2018 as part of wider data protection laws, it's not currently a requirement for the likes of Facebook and Microsoft.

Additionally, the EU is trying to stop online advertisers using free messaging services as a platform from targeting users with online ads based on their browsing history.

Telecom companies have been appealing for the EU to roll out the measures to all companies offering messaging services to consumers or repeal them for everyone to make the market more competitive. After all, VoIP and messaging over IP services such as WhatsApp and Skype are taking some of the business away from mobile networks by offering their services for free.

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Facebook has already implemented some restrictions on the sharing of data between WhatsApp and Facebook until the matter is resolved by the EU.

"We hope to continue our detailed conversations with the UK information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and other data protection officials," Facebook told the FT.

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