WhatsApp Faces Complaint for Foisting New Policy on EU Users

Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp messaging app faces a European complaint after its allegedly “aggressive” roll out of new terms and services sparked outrage among consumer-rights campaigners.

The updated policy, in effect since May, remains opaque and makes it impossible for users to get a clear understanding of what consequences WhatsApp’s changes entail for their privacy, European consumer association BEUC said in a statement on Monday.

“WhatsApp has been bombarding users for months with aggressive and persistent pop-up messages to force them to accept its new terms of use and privacy policy,” Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, said in the statement. “They’ve been telling users that their access to their app will be cut off if they do not accept the new terms” and remained “deliberately vague” about data processing.

WhatsApp announced the policy changes in January, but was forced to delay its introduction until May, because of confusion and user backlash over what data the messaging service collects and how it shares that information with parent Facebook.

Together with eight of its members, Brussels-based BEUC said it submitted a complaint with the European Commission and the European network of consumer authorities.

The filing urges regulators to open an investigation into WhatsApp’s practices and demand that the terms and services users agreed to “via the contentious practices” shouldn’t be binding on them.

WhatsApp said the complaint was “based on a misunderstanding of the purpose and effect” of the update to its terms of service.

The update “explains the options people have to message a business on WhatsApp and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data,” WhatsApp said in a statement.

“The update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook, and does not impact the privacy of your messages with friends or family, wherever they are in the world,” it added.

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