WhatsApp hit with EU complaint over controversial privacy update

The BEUC has accused the Facebook-owned messaging platform of breaching 'multiple' EU consumer rights with its "vague" policy prompt

WhatsApp has allegedly breached the EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices by asking users to accept its new privacy policy update.

That's according to the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), which has filed a complaint to the European Commission accusing the messaging platform of “bombarding” users with “persistent, recurrent and intrusive notifications”.

The complaint accuses WhatsApp of breaching “multiple” EU consumer rights, due to failing to use concise, simple language when explaining the new terms, as well as infringing on users’ freedom of choice.

The privacy policy update, in which the messaging platform confirms that it will share some user data with parent company Facebook, came into effect on 15 May after being delayed by three months due to public backlash.

Although the change doesn’t affect those in the UK or Europe specifically, all users are being asked to accept sharing certain aspects of data with parent company, Facebook, if they still wish to use the platform.

However, according to the BEUC director general Monique Goyens, “consumers don’t know what they’re actually accepting”.

“WhatsApp has been deliberately vague about this and consumers would be exposed to far reaching data processing without valid consent. That’s why we’re calling on the authorities to take swift action against WhatsApp to ensure that it respects consumer rights,” she said.

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According to the BEUC, which includes members from Romania, the Netherlands, Czechia, Norway, Greece, Slovakia, and France, WhatsApp has “failed to explain in plain and intelligible language the nature of the changes”. It also pointed out that since May, WhatsApp’s privacy policy has been “under scrutiny by the European Data Protection Authorities for breaches of EU data protection law”.

In a statement given to IT Pro, a WhatsApp spokesperson says BEUC's action is "based on a misunderstanding of the purpose and effect of the update to our terms of service.

"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. 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," the spokesperson continued. "We would welcome an opportunity to explain the update to BEUC and to clarify what it means for people.” 

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