If you are an avid phone user, you must be familiar with the famous messaging application, Whatsapp. It is one of the five best selling apps in the app store right now and provides an alternative to regular text messages to its users. The application is available over a number of platforms like Symbian, windows phone 8, android and even on BlackBerry. Whatsapp has billions of active users every month and hence people are naturally concerned over its privacy norms.
Now, Canadian and Dutch privacy agencies report that Whatsapp is violating their user’s privacy. This comes in a time, when internet based companies like Facebook was recently criticized for sharing customer’s data.
According to the Canadian and Dutch privacy agencies, Whatsapp is violating its user’s privacy by asking them to share all the contacts on their phone. This means that their server is copying numbers from user’s contact lists, even of those who are not on the application. This is a severe violation of the users’ privacy which is illegal in Canada as well as Netherlands, as they have to compulsorily share their entire contact list to use the application.
Jacob Kohnstamm, the chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority, released a statement in this regard, “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,”
The two agencies also reported that Whatsapp had modified their system and had rectified the previously reported issues; however there are still certain things that need to be fixed.
Also, it is worth noting that the Canadian agencies had no enforcement authority but the Californian Company was willing to incorporate changes into their system. The company has already fixed much vulnerabilities in their system like encrypting messages especially due to a vulnerability found over unsecured WiFi networks, disabling third parties to send and receive messages in the name of the user etc.
As they have been making changes based on the recommendations of the two agencies, we can hope that the company will release a fix for this problem pretty soon like allowing users to manually update their Whatsapp contact list.