EPIC, WhatsApp new T&C, FTC

I am a passionate writer with a keen nose for the news and stories that matter. Sit back, relax and enjoy the tech ride with me as I take you into my own version of all things techie

“Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA. Since we started WhatsApp, we’ve built our Services with a set of strong privacy principles in mind.” That is the opening statement on WhatsApp’s Terms and conditions (T&C) page that nobody bothers to read.

EPIC, WhatsApp new T&C, FTC

So what changed to make WhatsApp update the T&C to include the option of sharing your WhatsApp details with Facebook? That is the question Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) want Facebook and WhatsApp to answer. And they are not just seeking answers though, they want WhatsApp to rescind that decision because it violates the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules.

By now you’d understand that EPIC is based in the US; but make mistake about it, if their plans in the US is successful, it would have a great impact on WhatsApp’s policies in other parts of the world too.

Though EPIC might not know it, they are also fighting for the rest of the world too.

EPIC, WhatsApp new T&C, FTC
Marc Rotenberg, founder of Epic

Here is EPIC’s statement on what action they intend to pursue against WhatsApp and Facebook:

WhatsApp has announced plans to disclose user information to Facebook, including phone numbers and other user data, that will be connected with Facebook profiles. Facebook purchased WhatsApp in 2014, and the companies promised users of the privacy-protective messaging service that “nothing” will change for WhatsApp users’ privacy. EPIC filed a complaint with the FTC over the deal, and the FTC responded by warning the two companies that they must honor their privacy promises to WhatsApp users. The letter explained that failure to obtain users’ opt-in consent before changing data practices would be an unfair and deceptive trade practice and violate Facebook’s FTC Consent Order. WhatsApp’s recent announcement indicates users will have 30 days to opt-out of data transfers to Facebook, in violation of the law and the FTC’s Order.  In 2012, EPIC and a coalition of consumer privacy organizations also led a successful effort at the FTC after Facebook changed the privacy settings of its users. As a result, Facebook is subject to an FTC consent order.”

WhatsApp, in the statement about the update policy that would commence at the end of the year, stated clearly that anybody can opt out of the service if they chose to before 30 days.

EPIC, WhatsApp new T&C, FTC
Jan Koum, Fouder of WhatsApp

And they also made it clear our private chats cannot be shared with any third party due to the end-to-end encryption embedded in the messaging app.

So with that in mind, you might think EPIC and other like-minded individuals and groups are just spewing hot air for the sake of talking

Talking about like-minded groups, the UK’s Information Commission (ICO) is going to investigate how the new policy from WhatsApp would violate users privacy. According to the head of the ICO, Elizabeth Denham, this is just a simple case of seeing if and how users right to privacy were been violated.

EPIC, WhatsApp new T&C, FTC
Elizabeth Denham, UK Information Commissioner

In the statement she released, she said:

Some might consider it’ll give them a better service, others may be concerned by the lack of control.

Our role is to pull back the curtain on things like this, ensuring that companies are being transparent with the public about how their personal data is being shared and protecting consumers by making sure the law is being followed.”

This kind of complain against a big firm like WhatsApp can only be good for us the users. At the least, Facebook would be compelled to make it easy for people to opt out of the service if they don’t want their details shared with Facebook.

For now, how to go about opting out is hidden in the terms and conditions page which nobody ever bothers to read. And even if you take the time to head there, you might find the process rather tedious.

In other words, Facebook and WhatsApp are not interested in keeping your details private.


image credit: venturebeat.com; epic.org; forbes.com; iapp.org