GDPR’s approach sees ban on under 16 years old using popular messaging service WhatsApp
WhatsApp has changed its terms of service ahead of the arrival of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25 May.
The biggest change is that WhatsApp users, who previously had to be 13 years old, can no longer use the messaging platform. Now users have to be a minimum of 16 years old.
Users will be asked to confirm their age when prompted to agree new terms of service in the next few weeks.
However it is unclear at this stage how the Facebook owned company intends to enforce this increasing of the age limit.
WhatsApp revealed the changes in a blog posting, in which it pointed to the imminent introduction of the tougher privacy laws.
It said that WhatsApp has established an entity within the European Union to provide services in this region and “to meet the new high standards of transparency for how we protect the privacy of our users.”
WhatsApp reiterated that it is “not currently sharing account information to improve your product and ads experience on Facebook.”
But as part of the change to WhatsApp term of service, the age of users will be raised from 13 (currently) to 16 years old in Europe, although teenagers in the rest of the world can continue to use the service if they are aged 13.
This ban on a huge number of European teenagers aged between 13 and 16 is because of the EU’s GDPR, which comes into force on 25 May.
These new and much tougher privacy rules will give people more control over how companies use their information. People will also have the right to have their personal data erased.
But the GDPR also contains specific rules to protect children from having their personal data collected for marketing purposes, or to create user profiles.
WhatsApp was founded in 2009 and acquired by Facebook for $19bn in 2014. It currently has more than 1.5 billion users worldwide.
It is worth remembering that teenagers currently have to be aged 13 and above to use Facebook.
But in order for Facebook to comply with GDPR, it is taking a different approach from WhatsApp and will instead require those aged between 13 and 15 years old to nominate a parent or guardian to give permission for them to share information with Facebook, or otherwise limit the personalisation of the site.
Meanwhile it seems that WhatsApp will also be allowing all users to download a report detailing the data it holds on them as part of its new terms of service.
WhatsApp has been under pressure for a number of years number from both governments and regulatory watchdogs.
Governments around the world are unhappy with it because of its use of end-to-end encryption, which they feel threatens security if the service is used by terrorists.
That change immediately prompted outrage among WhatsApp users and European regulators.
Matters were not helped by the fact that WhatsApp founder Jan Koum had denied at the time of the acquisition that WhatsApp would have to follow Facebook’s privacy policies.
Indeed, such was the controversy that Facebook had to suspend in November 2016 data sharing between its social network and WhatsApp across the European Union.
That same month WhatsApp also suspended such data sharing activity in the UK.