WhatsApp violates Canadian privacy law, commissioner says

One week ago, it was the top paid iPhone app in Canada. Now, Canada’s privacy commissioner is slamming it for contravening Canadian and international privacy laws.

WhatsApp, an instant-messaging application that lets users chat across various platforms without having to pay text messaging fees, requires access to users’ entire address books in order to function. Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart and her Dutch counterpart Jacob Kohnstamm say that since the app doesn’t ask for permission before accessing the address book, it violates privacy laws in both countries.

The investigation also revealed that the app sends unencrypted messages, which could potentially make them susceptible to eavesdropping or interception. The issue has since been resolved as a result of the commission.

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“Our investigation has led to WhatsApp making and committing to make further changes in order to better protect users’ personal information,” said Stoddart in a statement, The Toronto Sun reports. Kohnstamm added that they were not yet satisfied, however, as the app should not be sharing the information of both users and non-users of WhatsApp without explicit permission.

The only version of the app that does not have the continued issue with the address book information is the iOS6 version as it requires users to add contacts to WhatsApp manually.

There are currently versions of WhatsApp for Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Nokia S40, Symbian and Windows Phone, and changes to the affected versions are likely to come in the next few months, Mobile Syrup says.

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