Request to update WhatsApp's privacy policy on the smartphone screen in Brazil
Request to update WhatsApp's privacy policy on the smartphone screen in Brazil, the second largest app market in the world. Photo: Rodrigo Ghedin

Brazil wants WhatsApp to postpone privacy policy changes

By accepting the new privacy policy, Facebook allows companies to outsource the storage and management of messages exchanged with customers to external providers

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Regulators in Brazil recommended on Friday that the messaging app WhatsApp and its owner, Facebook, postpone the effective date of a new privacy policy, scheduled to take effect on the 15th (next Saturday).

In a joint note, Brazil‘s antitrust watchdog, the Federal Public Ministry, the National Data Protection Authority, and the National Consumer Secretariat asked that before the privacy policy was updated, Facebook and WhatsApp should make changes on user access to the platform.

READ ALSO: WhatsApp postpones business resource update after privacy controversy

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, announced in January, authorizes the sharing of information in WhatsApp with Facebook companies.

What changes with WhatsApp’s new privacy policy?

The “ultimatum” for using WhatsApp has to do with an announcement made by Facebook in October 2020, as pointed out by LABS columnist Rodrigo Ghedin. At that time, the company presented news for the platform’s commercial accounts, those used by companies, from small businesses linked to WhatsApp Business to medium and large companies using APIs. The move was Facebook’s bet to monetize WhatsApp, which has never made a profit since it was bought in 2014 for almost $20 billion.

READ ON LABS: Millions flock to Telegram and Signal as fears grow over big tech

By accepting the new privacy policy, Facebook allows companies to outsource the storage and management of messages exchanged with customers. Facebook or other expert companies can take care of that. 

Thus, end-to-end encryption will remain standard and mandatory in groups and conversations with other individuals but will cease to exist in conversations with business accounts that have hired an external provider – after all, there is a third party reading / storing/ managing the interaction, as Facebook explained.

READ ALSO: Facebook relaunches WhatsApp money transfers in Brazil

After the announcement of changes in the privacy policy, Brazilians flock to applications such as Signal and Telegram, which led Facebook to postpone the entry into force of the new policy.

Why are regulators in Brazil concerned about WhatsApp’s new privacy policy?

Brazilian cops assessed that the privacy policy presented by WhatsApp may represent violations of personal data rights. Regulators also are concerned about possible effects on competition.

The obligation to accept the new privacy policy would leave WhatsApp with the power of users data to target ads and personalize the user experience in other properties of the group, namely Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram.

READ ALSO: Analysis: What changes in WhatsApp’s new privacy policy

In the document sent to companies, regulators in Brazil recommend that WhatsApp ceases to restrict access for users who do not adhere to the new policy to the app’s functionalities and that access to the contents of messages and files to be maintained.

Regulators also recommended that until then, Facebook does not share data obtained from WhatsApp based on changes in the privacy policy.

The document asks Facebook and WhatsApp to respond to the recommendations by Monday.

READ ALSO: New WhatsApp privacy policy: users who do not accept will lose some app’s features

When consulted, WhatsApp said in a press statement that “it has spent the past few months providing more information about this update to all users around the world” and that “most of the people notified have accepted the update.”

“However, those who have not yet had a chance to accept the update will not have their accounts deleted or lose functionality on May 15,” added WhatsApp, saying it will continue to send notifications in the coming weeks.

READ ALSO: Signal and Telegram see a meteoric growth after WhatsApp privacy policy controversy

On a separate statement later, the company also stated that it had not been formally notified of the regulators’ recommendation.

WhatsApp relaunched this week, its money transfer service between individuals in Brazil (the second launch market, just after India), after being blocked by the Brazilian Central Bank almost a year ago.

Translated and co-written by LABS