WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption policies have often come up against regulatory hurdles, such as when the platform publicly refused to allow backdoor access for law enforcement officials to access conversations of fugitives and terrorism suspects. In the wake of the current Cambridge Analytica scandal engulfing parent company Facebook, the very same policy has, in fact, become a boon – in the wake of the crisis, WhatsApp clarified that its encryption policies meant that none of the user messages on the platform had been stored.
Facebook has a separate data policy for its services, including rival instant messaging service Messenger. In preparation for GDPR, Facebook stated that it will ask users between the ages of 13 and 15 to get parental permission for using the platform; if users are unable to procure this permission, they will see a more limited and generic version of the platform. It is again unclear how the social media giant will monitor whether permission has been granted or not. WhatsApp, for its part, has clarified that it is not seeking any new rights to access personal information of users to comply with GDPR rules.
In a blog post, the platform wrote, “Our goal is simply to explain how we use and protect the limited information we have about you.”
Despite its avowed support for user data protection, WhatsApp has come under regulatory scrutiny in Europe in recent weeks for alleged plans to share user information such as phone numbers with parent company Facebook to improve ad targeting and other services. WhatsApp dropped the idea in the face of regulatory pressure, but has said it still seeks a way to share information with Facebook, “As we have said in the past, we want to work closer with other Facebook companies in the future and we will keep you updated as we develop our plans.”