WhatsApp: associations try to overturn its new rules

A complaint has been filed with the European Commission to counter the new WhatsApp terms of use. Announced in January, they have been controversial ever since.

WhatsApp’s decision to change its terms of service continues to create a stir, nearly two months after they went into effect. While a growing number of users have come to accept them, consumer organizations believe that it is not too late to overthrow them. They are therefore launching an action in this direction with the European Commission, this Monday, July 12.

Objective of the European Bureau of Consumers’ Unions (Beuc), a federation which brings together 46 associations, including the UFC-Que Choisir in France: to obtain full respect, and within a short time, of the rights of European consumers from the instant messaging, which is accused of violating them on multiple levels with its new regulations.

For several months, WhatsApp has been putting undue pressure on its users to accept its new terms of use and privacy policy. “, Denounces the Beuc in its press release, co-signed by eight of its members, including the UFC-Que Choisir. Among the levers operated to force the hand of Internet users, the prospect of losing their account or, at least, certain features.

WhatsApp told users that access to their app would be cut off if they didn’t agree to the new terms. Yet consumers don’t know what they’re really accepting ยป, Adds Monique Goyens, general manager of Beuc. However, since they were announced, these new conditions have never been deemed transparent and understandable, except by WhatsApp.

Seven months of controversy

The Facebook subsidiary has, in January 2021, warned of the imminent change in its terms of use and specified that they should be accepted sooner or later, to continue to benefit from the messaging service. However, in the face of the heated controversy that arose in the wake of this announcement, WhatsApp had delayed the entry into force of its new regulations until May 15.

What is specifically criticized for the mobile application is not the questioning of end-to-end encryption, which guarantees the confidentiality of exchanges between members of the same discussion. It is the fact that this new legal framework allows the platform to share certain data with Facebook and its other subsidiaries, in a movement that aims to develop the profitability of WhatsApp.

Despite the controversy, the WhatsApp messaging application remains widely used. // Source: Christoph Scholz

In particular, it is the commercial aspect of messaging that interests Facebook, with the possibility of placing orders or payments. These exchanges with merchants, including in customer relations, potentially represent a gold mine for Facebook: what interests users? And most importantly, what do they buy, in order to refine ad targeting.

This is not the only grievance. Writing makes it difficult to understand the text for a person without legal background. ” It is virtually impossible for users to clearly understand the consequences of changes made by WhatsApp on their privacy, especially with regard to the transfer of their personal data to Facebook and other third parties. Said Le Beuc.

The complaint is now in the hands of Brussels, but also of the European network of authorities responsible for consumer protection – the other organization to which the Beuc turned. It remains to be seen what follow-up will be given to this case. In any case, a possible decision will only concern the European area, that is to say a fraction of the some 2 billion members that WhatsApp has.

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