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WhatsApp is unhappy with Apple’s new privacy ‘nutrition label’ policy for App Store: Here’s why

WhatsApp is not happy with Apple. The reason: Apple's update App Store privacy policy, which will require apps to show a 'privacy nutrition' label that will display the data being collected.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 9, 2020 8:59:53 pm
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WhatsApp is not happy with Apple. The reason: Apple’s update App Store privacy policy, which will require apps to show a ‘privacy nutrition’ label that will display the data being collected. WhatsApp’s argument is Apple’s new policy is not being consistently applied.

In a statement issued to Axios, a WhatsApp spokesperson said, “We think labels should be consistent across first and third party apps as well as reflect the strong measures apps may take to protect people’s private information. While providing people with easy to read information is a good start, we believe it’s important people can compare these ‘privacy nutrition’ labels from apps they download with apps that come pre-installed, like iMessage.”

The problem as WhatsApp is pointing out is that while they will be required to have a privacy label next to their app, but Apple’s own iMessage which is pre-installed on iPhones would be at a competitive advantage, according to the report.

The spokesperson also added that while they have submitted their privacy labels to Apple, but “Apple’s template does not shed light on the lengths apps may go to protect sensitive information.” We have also reached out to WhatsApp for a comment.

Apple’s new policy will see privacy ‘nutrition labels’ reflected next to all apps, highlighting what data each app is collecting. Facebook has also protested against the new policy.

We reached out to WhatsApp for a response and the company’s spokesperson told Indian Express, “While providing people with easy to read information is a good start, we believe it’s important people can compare these Privacy Nutrition labels from apps they download with apps that come pre-installed, like iMessage. Our teams have submitted our privacy labels to Apple but Apple’s template does not shed light on the lengths apps may go to protect sensitive information. While WhatsApp cannot see people’s messages or precise location, we’re stuck using the same broad labels with apps that do. We think labels should be consistent across first and thirty party apps as well as reflect the strong measures apps may take to protect people’s private information.”

In a blogpost around the issue, WhatsApp has also outlined all the data that it collects. The post reads, “We support transparency, which is why we already provide a way for people to download information associated with their account. We go to great lengths to build WhatsApp in a way that protects the privacy of our users and make them aware of this at the start of every conversation.”

The post adds that WhatsApp does need to collect some information in order to work reliably, adding that “as a matter of principle, we minimise the categories of data that we collect.”

WhatsApp has also listed out the data, which is not protected by end-to-end encryption. The latter feature ensures even WhatsApp cannot read messages or listen to your voice or video calls. Nor can any third-party read WhatsApp messages or listen to any conversations.

The messaging app says it collects ‘contact information’ such as phone number and if a user enables two-step verification, they can also share their email address with WhatsApp, though it is not required. It also accesses a user’s contacts to “see which of those numbers are verified in our system.”

In countries where one can send payments via WhatsApp such as in India, “card or bank information is needed to complete a transaction.” Further if any purchase is made via Facebook Shops on WhatsApp, then that information is shared with Facebook. WhatsApp adds, “this means that product browsing and purchasing experience within Shops may influence what you see in Shops on other Facebook products.”

WhatsApp also keeps a tab on the IP address from which your phone connects to the service, and is aware of the country code from your phone number, though it says it does not see your precise location. Other user content such as profile photo, group names, group profile photo and group descriptions are also collected by WhatsApp.

Further it also knows about your data usage, which is done in order to prevent bulk or automated messaging. WhatsApp says that it also “sponsors marketing campaigns, including using Apple’s ad network, to reach people who do not currently use WhatsApp. We also communicate to users inside the app about new product features and updates.”

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