WhatsApp accused of infringing Canadian privacy laws, commissioner asks company for update

Daniel Bader

January 28, 2013 5:00pm

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In a joint investigation with the Dutch Data Protection Authority, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada(OPC) found that WhatsApp, a popular multi-platform messaging app, violated both countries’ privacy laws by indefinitely storing users’ address books on all operating systems but Apple’s iOS6.

“The investigation revealed that users of WhatsApp – apart from iPhone users who have iOS 6 software – do not have a choice to use the app without granting access to their entire address book. The address book contains phone numbers of both users and non-users. This lack of choice contravenes (Dutch and Canadian) privacy law. Both users and non-users should have control over their personal data and users must be able to freely decide what contact details they wish to share with WhatsApp,” claims the Chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority, Jacob Kohnstamm in a press release issued today.

The bureaus have worked with WhatsApp to ensure changes will be made to the app on platforms such as Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry OS to better protect users’ sensitive information. They found that WhatsApp indefinitely stores users’ phonebook data in hash form which, with the right tools, could be decrypted. Canadian law dictates that such information can only be stored for the length of time it takes the offending company to match that information with the appropriate database.

WhatsApp had already changed how it treats sent and received messages thanks to the inquiry; previously, messages sent over the company’s servers were unencrypted but have been since September 2012 the issue has been resolved.

WhatsApp intends to comply with the Commissioner’s findings, and will likely implement a fix to the aforementioned issue in the coming months.

Via: CNW

  • iphoneee

    whatsapp…. Y U NO INTEGRATE WITH APPLE MAPS?

  • deltatux

    It’s great to see both the Canadian Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the Dutch Data Protection Authority making WhatsApp better. I had suspicions that this was going on when using WhatsApp on my Android device.

    Now, only if the OPC would also mandate an overhaul to the SMS system to be encrypted as well. Doubt it’ll happen, but one can hope.

  • Wil

    Hopefully they’ll update the god awful UI for Android too.

  • Mike

    And they only started using SSL late last year, so your address book may have been uploaded to their server in plaintext.

  • SL

    While this update is definitely needed, I’m surprised to find that time and money is being wasted on this “investigation.” the Android Marketplace (sorry, “Google Play”) requires you to agree to allow access to certain functions and information when installing a new app. Wasn’t this known going in?

  • Mexico Ron

    Privacy? That’s a joke. Android was designed and created in order to collect data. Why complain just because someone has your contacts. Everyone using gmail, gall, android, etc has already handed this over to google.

    I for one am comfortable with this. Google gets all of our data and info and in exchange we get the best mobile OS in the planet and lots of free s**t. That’s awesome. I’ll take that deal all day long.

    • deltatux

      Not like running Windows, MacOS X or any other operating system won’t do the same. It’s a false assumption that other companies don’t collect your data. Microsoft has been notorious for having Windows phone home since Windows XP, you don’t see people preaching about privacy violation when Microsoft’s doing it but when Google does it, it’s open season eh?

    • Tom

      Google is one of the few companies that has never sold or given away their users’ data. They use it to personalize ads and that is it. They even make it easy for you to take it away if you want (see data liberation).

      Twitter, Netflix, and many others sell your data.

      But the worst is Windows, where there is no permission system protecting your data – any app you install effectively has every permission.

    • I’m with trolling is an art

      Windows XP notorious for “phoning home”? You’re an IDIOT. Expert programmers and hackers around the world have looked into this, and the only “phoning home” it does is to connect to Windows Update servers, and for certain features like Media Player lyrics, etc. Most importantly, all of this behaviour can EASILY BE DISABLED.

      If you think that all of your content is being spied on with Windows, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

  • Xenophone

    I blame Apple personally for encouraging the mass hacking of its customers, all the while they lie about what information of yours they are sharing or using themselves.

    We all saw the flood of website accounts that were compromised last year due to iPhone security failures from banks to LinkedIn.

    It’ll be at least 2 phones / 5 years before I consider trusting the spawn of Jobs again, everything started to go downhill when he claimed he could prevent the next September’s eleventh by feeding info from all of its users into NSA fusion centers…. And pretty please attack its competitors with anti-trust lawsuits, ban those which are secure, and make switch a few federal departments to iOS ware.

    Apple is circa 2000 Microsoft, and we know where that will all end up

    • Mexico Ron

      Don’t post when you’re high. You just end up sounding retarded.

    • Louis

      You’re blaming Apple for WhatsApp’s issues on other platforms. What? Are you nuts?

  • Plazmic Flame

    So I guess this means no Whatsapp on bb10

  • Nexus

    screw Whatsapp, Line is better overall

    • babablacksheep

      So many MORONS using Whatsapp, incredible! The app is MASSIVELY problematic. It’s a huge system resource hog, has more security holes and swiss cheese, and it’s often unstable plus has serious privacy holes.

      The faster people move away from Whatsapp onto a BETTER alternative, the better.

      So many SUPERIOR apps out there compared to Whatsapp.

  • Huawei4Real

    Whiners. You get it free, stop bitching about privacy. You want them to work in your favour? Pay them.

    What’s next, people surprise that google collects more data on users and their usage than any entity on earth. Duh! Why did you think it was free? How do some people feed themselves without a straw?

    • babablacksheep

      GOOGLE is the DEVIL!

      And Fandroids and others simply don’t care! Like lamb to the slaughter …. baaaaaaaaaaaaaa

      Forget eating through a straw, I often wonder how so many people are even able to survive on a daily basis, given they lack so much intelligence. Then I realize all the “modern conveniences” are keeping people alive, chronically unhealthy, but alive just enough to squeeze more labour out of them.

  • skazzberry

    It’s not FREE you i***t. It’s usually a 1 or 2 year trial on Android and Windows Phone and requires purchasing after the term is over.

    On Iphone its $0.99 up front.