The Deadline for Ditching WhatsApp-photo by Christian Wiediger on UnsplashThere is a worrying trend of tech behemoths moving data away from the EU and back to the US. One possible reason is to avoid stringent GDPR data regulations. WhatsApp has recently introduced a new policy for users outside of the EU. It requires users to agree to share their personal information with other Facebook companies. The Register covered details of the announcement.

The original deadline for providing this permission was 8 February, after which dissenting users will no longer be able to use the app. The deadline has now been postponed to later in the year. This is due to public outcry and a mass exodus to other messaging platforms. But we can see the direction of travel.

Users who already have privacy settings blocking sharing of their information will retain that protection. Anyone else could be giving up personal info such as names, profile pictures, status updates, phone numbers, contacts lists, IP addresses, mobile device model, operating system, network carrier, etc. Anyone who engages with businesses via the app will give up other sensitive details. This includes shipping addresses and the amount of money spent on orders.

Facebook looking for ROI?

When Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, they stated that they would not monetise the WhatsApp user base for five years. Those five years are now passed. It is to be expected that Facebook will now look to recoup its investment (some $22bn).

They initiated this with their drive to get businesses taking orders and providing support to customers over WhatsApp. All that information could end up stored on Facebook’s servers if businesses opt to store it there. While WhatsApp currently states that contact details will not be shared with Facebook for advertising purposes, they could be in future.

Data fallout from Brexit

Before Christmas, we saw a story that Facebook is moving the responsibility and legal obligations for UK users from its operations in Dublin to the US. This is due to Brexit and the UK’s changing relationship with the EU. However, they also regard the UK as still part of their “EU region”. Google made a similar announcement earlier in the year.

GDPR still applies, WhatsApp is NOT suitable for Business Use

Currently, the UK’s data protection laws mirror those of GDPR. For this reason alone, WhatsApp, and some other consumer-grade, social media messaging platforms, are not suitable for business use – and never have been. Some industry bodies, such as the Finance Conduct Authority are warning against its use.

This latest change to its Terms and Conditions indicates Facebook’s ongoing intention to monetise its users. It potentially opens up its options for dealing with UK users’ data. This is particularly relevant in the advent of a UK and US trade deal, that includes handling data.

Armour’s White Paper: Why WhatsApp is Not Suitable for the Workplace goes into more detail. Download a copy.


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