South Africa’s Information Regulator (IR) says that Facebook cannot share any contact information it collects from WhatsApp users in South Africa without first obtaining authorisation.
“WhatsApp cannot without obtaining prior authorisation from the IR process any contact information of its users for a purpose other than the one for which the number was specifically intended at collection, with the aim of linking that information jointly with information processed by other Facebook companies,” the regulator said in a statement on Wednesday (3 March).
Chairperson of the IR Pansy Tlakula said that the regulator is particularly concerned that citizens of the European Union will receive significantly higher privacy protection than people in South Africa and Africa generally.
“Our legislation is very similar to that of the EU. It was based on that model deliberately, as it provides a significantly better model for the protection of personal information than that in other jurisdictions,” Chairperson of the IR Pansy Tlakula said.
“We do not understand why Facebook has adopted this differentiation between Europe and Africa,” she said.
Planned changes still going ahead
In a statement published on its website, WhatsApp said that it had previously encountered a ‘great deal of misinformation’ about this update and said it will ‘continue to work hard’ to clear up any confusion.
“As a reminder, we’re building new ways to chat or shop with a business on WhatsApp that are entirely optional. Personal messages will always be end-to-end encrypted, so WhatsApp can’t read or listen to them.
“We’ve reflected on what we could have done better here. We want everyone to know our history of defending end-to-end encryption and trust we’re committed to protecting people’s privacy and security.”
The group said it will use its ‘status’ feature to share values and updates directly within WhatsApp.
“In the coming weeks, the group said it will display a banner in WhatsApp providing more information that people can read at their own pace. WhatsApp said it has also included more information to try and address concerns its heard.
“Eventually, we’ll start reminding people to review and accept these updates to keep using WhatsApp.”
The company further stressed that WhatsApp and Facebook cannot read or listen to personal conversations as they are end-to-end encrypted.