German Consumer Group Sues Whatsapp Over Privacy Policy

German Consumer Group Sues Whatsapp Over Privacy Policy

The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBZ) has filed a lawsuit against Whatsapp in a Berlin court over its data and sharing practices. The organization wants the instant messaging service to stop passing users’ information to its parent company Facebook.

Facebook officially sealed its massive purchase of WhatsApp in October 2014, but it wasn’t until August 2016 that the company said it would modify its privacy policy. VZBV is objecting to eight clauses in WhatsApp's revised terms of use, including one allowing WhatsApp to provide users with advertising materials without their consent. VZBV say each customer must be able to decide themselves which personal data is revealed to Facebook and how it is used.

"Our experts brought the misconduct to light. Now we’ll meet in court," VZBV said. "Be it Facebook, Google, Amazon or now WhatsApp: we target violations."

Whatsapp told Bloomberg in an e-mailed statement that its privacy policy and terms updates comply with the law and give users a clear and simple explanation of how the service works, so it is up to them to choose how their data is used.

VZBV has previous with the social media giant. Last April, it took a case against Whatsapp that forced the company to publish its terms and conditions in German. Facebook has until tomorrow (January 31) to properly respond to the latest charges.

The policy changes have also come under fire from other bodies. The European Commission is probing Facebook for possibly supplying “incorrect or misleading information” to antitrust regulators in the run-up to its acquisition of WhatsApp. Privacy campaigners, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy, have accused the company of deceptive trade practices.

Cyber security has become a huge talking point in recent years. Analysts forecast the market to value US$18.5 billion by 2026, due to the growing adoption of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) concept, rising internet of things market and the growing vulnerability of IT and communication networks to hacking.

In other news, multiple sources are reporting that Whatsapp are working on a new feature that would allow users to track their contacts in real time. Live Location Tracking has been spotted in the beta version of the messaging app, both on Android and iOS. However, it is understood that the feature will be disabled by default when it arrives, presumably to reassure consumers with privacy fears. WhatsApp users will need to manually opt in through the app’s Settings menu.

The company is also rumoured to be working on a tool that would allow users to edit and even recall sent messages.

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(Image Credit - Sam Azgor)

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