WhatsApp cannot share user information without SA Information Regulator’s permission

A local ruling from SA's Information Regulator may stop WhatsApp from going ahead with its proposed changes.

WhatsApp cannot share user information without SA Information Regulator’s permission

If, like me, you’ve been using Telegram for the last few years, you would have been witness to the mass exodus of users after Whatsapp notified users of upcoming changes to their privacy policy.

Fears about the forthcoming changes may have been premature, though a local ruling may stop WhatsApp from going ahead with its proposed changes.

WhatsApp Privacy Policy updates

WhatsApp needs permission from SA’s Information Regulator

The contentious change to Whatsapp’s terms of service would allow Whatsapp, which Facebook inc owns, to share some information from your WhatsApp profile and usage with its parent company and its subsidiaries like Instagram.

However, South Africa’s Information regulator has now made itself heard on the matter stating that Whatsapp could not share user’s contact information with Facebook Inc. without the regulator’s permission. The Information Regulator of South Africa said:

“WhatsApp cannot without obtaining prior authorisation from the IR process any contact information of its users for a purpose other than the one for which the number was specifically intended at collection, with the aim of linking that information jointly with information processed by other Facebook companies”.

Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act

This is in line with the Protection of Personal Information Act which was put in place to protect South Africans by limiting which information can be collected by companies and how that information is stored and used.

The regulator has confirmed that they have written to Facebook South Africa about their concerns over the proposed changes to Whatsapp’s privacy policy.

The regulator added that they were concerned that the privacy policy for South Africa differed from that proposed for the EU even though South Africa’s data protection legislation was modelled on that used in the EU.

Chairperson of the IR, Pansy Tlakula, said their “legislation is very similar to that of the EU. It was based on that model deliberately, as it provides a significantly better model for the protection of personal information than that in other jurisdictions.”

“We do not understand why Facebook has adopted this differentiation between Europe and Africa.”

Public awareness about privacy

If nothing else, though, the proposed changes to Whatsapp’s policies have resulted in a lot more public awareness about their relationship with technology. The number of users who have started looking at Whatsapp’s alternatives is a sign that consumers are tired of giving up their data in exchange for services.

Whatsapp is a free service, and only time will tell how it navigates the turmoil that the changes to its privacy policy has brought. It’s clear that countries are ready to push back against policies that look to share user’s personal information.

Whether this exodus is the beginning of the end for Whatsapp or a new beginning where Facebook inc, starts looking to in-app adverts to try and monetise their ubiquitous messaging service will become more apparent in the coming months.

Source : The South African More