WhatsApp is changing its European privacy policy after record fine

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Alex Ruhl)
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Back in September, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) hit WhatsApp with a colossal €225m fine for failing to properly comply with GDPR legislation in Europe. Although the company is currently appealing the ruling in Ireland's High Court and the European Court of Justice, parent company Meta has announced that privacy policy changes demanded by the watchdog have now been implemented.

The changes involve not only reorganizing privacy policy documentation for better clarity, but also providing additional detail in a number of areas. Although WhatsApp operates on a global basis, the privacy policy changes only apply to users in Europe and the UK.

The fine issued by the DPC was the second largest ever in relation to GDPR. WhatsApp was criticized and penalized for failing to meet transparency obligations under the privacy rules. Announcing the policy tweaks, WhatsApp says:

"We're updating our Privacy Policy for our users, at the direction of our lead European data protection regulator, the Irish Data Protection Commission.

We know that privacy is a top concern for our users, so we want to be very clear: 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."

Privacy practices

The company says that with the update it merely wants to "add additional detail around our existing practices".

Among the information added to the privacy policy is detail about what data is collect, why it is collected, how it is stored and used, when it is deleted, and what data comes from third parties. n top of this, the update provides greater detail about data sharing across borders and information about how data is protected.

WhatsApp users in affect territories will see a banner notification in the app inviting them to read the 12,000-word, 35-page policy document. Because there are no material changes to policy, users will not have to agree to anything new in order to continue using the service.

Analysis: privacy, globally

The problems faced by Meta for its WhatsApp, Facebook and other services highlight the difficulty of operating a global technology company that needs to comply with different privacy laws and other regulations around the world. For such a massive company, even a large fine such as the one issued by the Irish Data Protection Commission is really pockets change, and in no way serves as a deterrent against further breaches.

However, even mighty organizations like Meta can be forced to make changes if they want to operate in certain markets, and this is what has happened here. The increase public scrutiny legal action places on firms also plays a vitally important role in encouraging good behavior and best practice.


Sofia Wyciślik-Wilson
Staff writer

Sofia is a tech journalist who's been writing about software, hardware and the web for nearly 20 years – but still looks as youthful as ever! After years writing for magazines, her life moved online and remains fueled by technology, music and nature.

Having written for websites and magazines since 2000, producing a wide range of reviews, guides, tutorials, brochures, newsletters and more, she continues to write for diverse audiences, from computing newbies to advanced users and business clients. Always willing to try something new, she loves sharing new discoveries with others.

Sofia lives and breathes Windows, Android, iOS, macOS and just about anything with a power button, but her particular areas of interest include security, tweaking and privacy. Her other loves include walking, music, her two Malamutes and, of course, her wife and daughter.

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