WhatsApp tweaks privacy policy following order from Irish data watchdog

22 Nov 2021

Image: © Syifa5610/Stock.adobe.com

The messaging platform is including ‘more detail’ for European users about how it collects and uses data.

WhatsApp has updated its privacy policy for users in Europe following its fine from Ireland’s data watchdog.

In September, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) issued its largest ever fine to the messaging platform. It was ordered to pay €225m for breaching transparency obligations under the EU’s GDPR and to update its privacy notices for European users.

WhatsApp, owned by the company now known as Meta, is appealing the fine but is updating its policy information in Europe.

“This update does not change the way we operate our service, including how we process, use or share your data with anyone, including our parent company Meta,” WhatsApp outlined.

Instead, the messaging platform said it has “better organised” its privacy policy and updated it with additional information.

This includes “more detail” about how it collects and uses data, what services third parties provide, why it shares data across borders and how it protects that data, and the legal bases it relies on for processing user data.

Policy problems

The policy update is coming into effect from today (22 November). Users are set to see a banner notification in the app, which they can click on to find out more information about the changes, but won’t need to take any action to continue using the service.

This information will only appear in the European version of the privacy policy, which is already different to the version for users in the US and around the world.

WhatsApp’s privacy terms – and the differences for users in Europe – were put under the microscope earlier this year when it rolled out an update to its policy.

The update was delayed from February to May due to “a lot of misinformation causing concern”, according to WhatsApp. During that time, the DPC sought clarity from WhatsApp to ensure that there would be no change to its data-sharing practices in Europe.

The DPC’s fine earlier this year centred on WhatsApp’s transparency obligations in terms of providing information to both users and non-users of its service.

WhatsApp is appealing the ruling, saying it believes it had provided the required information to users. The messaging service is also appealing the severity of the fine, describing it as “disproportionate”.

Ireland’s DPC is the lead data privacy watchdog in Europe for WhatsApp as Meta has its European headquarters in Dublin.

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Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic