Exciting Developments: WhatsApp Increases Transparency and User Control Over Policy Updates
WhatsApp has recently announced its decision to be more transparent with its users and simplify the process of rejecting updated policies that users disagree with. The European Commission has confirmed that WhatsApp will allow users to decline the updated terms of service and opt out of using its services if desired. Furthermore, WhatsApp has pledged not to share users’ personal data with third parties or other Meta companies for advertising purposes.
This decision aligns with the Digital Services Act and the EU General Data Protection Regulation, which aim to prevent platforms from exploiting regulatory gaps to manipulate users. EU Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, applauded these changes and emphasized the importance of consumers understanding their agreements and the implications of their choices, allowing them to make informed decisions about using the platform.
The CPC Network’s Communication with WhatsApp
The BEUC claimed that WhatsApp unfairly pressured users to accept new terms of service and privacy policies, which lacked transparency and comprehensibility for users.
WhatsApp’s initial response in March 2022 did not satisfy the CPC Network, as they remained unconvinced by the company’s explanations. Consequently, a second letter was sent in June 2022, reiterating the need for transparency concerning WhatsApp’s business model and inquiring about the company’s revenue generation from commercial policies related to users’ personal data.
WhatsApp’s Notable Commitments
WhatsApp has pledged to make the following changes for all future policy updates, impacting its two billion users:
- Clearly explain the changes and their impact on users’ rights.
- Allow users to reject any updated terms of service.
- Enable users to dismiss or delay update notifications for review.
- Respect users’ preferences and avoid sending repetitive notifications.
These commitments are designed to improve transparency, empower users, and respect their privacy choices.
Next Steps: Tackling ‘Dark Patterns’
The CPC will closely monitor WhatsApp’s implementation of these promises, ensuring compliance and considering fines if necessary. The press release also acknowledged the widespread use of “dark patterns” in many company business models. Dark patterns are tactics that make it more difficult for consumers to unsubscribe from a service than to subscribe to it. The CPC Network, supported by the Commission, is dedicated to increasing efforts to address such unlawful practices.
European authorities have also scrutinized other major tech companies like Google, TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter since 2019 to guarantee compliance with EU consumer rules. In 2022, the EU introduced new legal frameworks, such as the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the Digital Services Act (DSA), the AI Act, and the Data Act, which aim to promote competition responsibilities for Big Tech and establish a more equitable data ecosystem. Marietje Schaake, the international policy director at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center, highlighted the significance of this pivotal year in the EU’s crackdown on Big Tech dominance.
To learn more about the world’s most stringent data protection and regulation act, the GDPR, explore our comprehensive 2023 GDPR compliance checklist.