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Controversial WhatsApp privacy update faces axe in Germany

WhatsApp’s forthcoming privacy policy update has upset plenty of users due to concerns about Facebook data sharing, but now the messaging app is on the wrong side of an entire country.

German regulators have announced they’re giving the big thumbs down to the update, which WhatsApp says users must agree to by May 15, or gradually lose access to the platform.

The Germans argue that the consequences for users aren’t yet clear because of the complex nature of potential data transfers between the various Facebook-owned properties.

Johannes Casper, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information says “provisions on data transfers are scattered at different levels of the privacy policy, they are unclear and hard to distinguish in their European and international versions.”

Of the new privacy policy, he says “the contents are misleading and show considerable contradictions. Even after close analysis, it is not clear what consequences approval has for users. Furthermore, consent is not freely given, since WhatsApp demands acceptance of the new provisions as a condition for the continued use of the service’s functionalities.”

As such, the Germans have banned the rollout of the update using the European GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) laws. That opens the door to other EU nations governed by the law, who might be next to take action if they deem it necessary. Having left the EU, the UK is no longer governed by the EU GDRP, but has its own data protection laws.

It’s unsure how the ban will be enforced and whether WhatsApp plans to back down on the update, which it has been aggressively pushing for the last few months. WhatsApp isn’t very happy about the decision in Germany, but doesn’t believe it will hinder the rollout of the update. We’ve contact the company for further comment.

In a statement (via Android Police), the company said: “The Hamburg DPA’s order against Facebook is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose and effect of WhatsApp’s update and therefore has no legitimate basis. Our recent update explains the options people have to message a business on WhatsApp and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data. As the Hamburg DPA’s claims are wrong, the order will not impact the continued roll-out of the update. We remain fully committed to delivering secure and private communications for everyone.”

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