Canadian privacy commissioner blasts WhatsApp

An HTC Android-based smartphone is displayed during a news conference. (REUTERS/Pichi Chuang/Files)

An HTC Android-based smartphone is displayed during a news conference. (REUTERS/Pichi Chuang/Files)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

A popular messenger app stores people's personal information without their permission, even when they didn't sign up for it, Canadian and Dutch privacy regulators have found.

WhatsApp, a messenger service for people with Android phones, violates internationally adopted privacy regulations, said the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

When someone installs WhatsApp on their phone, it searches through the user's address book to find which friends who are also using the service.

But when it's done, WhatsApp retains all those phone numbers, even the ones from people who never signed up for the app in the first place.

What's more, the joint investigation by Canada's privacy commissioner and the Dutch Data Protection Authority found WhatsApp uses unencrypted messages, "leaving them prone to eavesdropping or interception."

"Our investigation has led to WhatsApp making and committing to make further changes in order to better protect users' personal information," said privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, in a statement.

However, Jacob Kohnstamm, Stoddart's Dutch counterpart, added: "But we are not completely satisfied yet. The investigation revealed that users of WhatsApp - apart from iPhone users who have iOS 6 software - do not have a choice to use the app without granting access to their entire address book. The address book contains phone numbers of both users and non-users. This lack of choice contravenes (Dutch and Canadian) privacy law. Both users and non-users should have control over their personal data and users must be able to freely decide what contact details they wish to share with WhatsApp."


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