South Africa expresses concern over WhatsApp privacy policy

South Africa expresses concern over WhatsApp privacy policy

The backlash to WhatsApp’s announcement of a new privacy policy continues. The latest adverse response has come from South Africa.

In January, the Facebook-owned messaging platform informed users it was preparing a new privacy policy, under which it could share some data, including location and phone numbers, with Facebook and its other units such as Instagram and Messenger.

According to Reuters, South Africa's information regulator has now ruled that Facebook Inc cannot share any contact information it collects from WhatsApp users in South Africa with its other properties without first obtaining authorisation from the regulator.

The move is said to be in accordance with the country’s data protection law. The regulator has written to Facebook South Africa to explain its concerns. It seems especially unhappy at what it sees as more robust privacy protection for EU citizens compared to Africans.

WhatsApp is now reviewing the regulator’s letter. WhatsApp appears to be playing down the update, suggesting that it does not expand the company’s ability to share data with Facebook, or affect the privacy of users’ messages with friends or family.

South Africa is far from alone. Turkey and India have been among countries expressing concern about the changes. In fact, as we have reported, in India, where it has hundreds of millions of users, the update of WhatsApp terms and conditions has been moved from the original date of 8 February to 15 May.

At consumer level, rival services such as Signal or Telegram have benefited from the new privacy policy.

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