Text app said violating privacy laws

Jan. 28, 2013 at 8:22 PM

OTTAWA, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- WhatsApp, which allows text messaging over the Internet without incurring SMS messaging charges, violates Canadian and Dutch privacy laws, officials say.

Canada's privacy watchdog, in a joint investigation with Dutch authorities, determined the popular mobile messaging app breaches Canadian and Dutch privacy laws by forcing many of its users to grant access to their entire address book to use it, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News reported Monday.

"The address book contains phone numbers of both [WhatsApp] users and non-users," Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority, said in a statement.

"This lack of choice contravenes (Dutch and Canadian) privacy law."

WhatsApp Inc., based in California, has changed the iPhone version of the app to allow users to add contacts manually instead of uploading their address book.

However, users of the Android, BlackBerry and Windows version of the app do not have that option.

Canada's Office of the Privacy Commissioner began investigating WhatsApp in January 2012, saying it had "reasonable grounds" to believe the company was "collecting, using, disclosing and retaining personal information" in a manner that contravened Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

WhatsApp Inc. has said it's committed to fixing the problem on all platforms but has not said when, the Dutch/Canadian report said.

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