WhatsApp raises minimum age to 16 for users

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In compliance with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law, WhatsApp has raised the minimum age restriction for users in Europe to 16—up from 13.

The update means you will now be required to confirm if you are at least 16 years of age before you can be allowed to use the messaging app. This will come into effect when users are asked to agree to WhatsApp’s new terms of service as provided by a new WhatsApp Ireland Ltd entity expected to come into effect in the next couple of weeks, CNBC reports.

WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook, has a data policy that is quite different to what the messaging app is adopting. In the case of the social networking’s policy, teenagers aged between 13 and 15 will have to comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law.

On Facebook’s part, parents or guardian will have to give permission to teens to allow them share information on the network. Anything other than this will deny them [teens] access to full personalized version of Facebook.

In a blog post, WhatsApp said:

We are not asking for new rights to collect personal information with this update. Our goal is simply to explain how we use and protect the limited information we have about you.”

Though, WhatsApp said it currently has no plans to share account information of users with Facebook, that does not mean it won’t do so in the foreseeable future:

We are not currently sharing account information to improve your product and ads experience on Facebook. As we have said in the past, we want to work closer with other Facebook companies in the future and we will keep you updated as we develop our plans.

WhatsApp angered millions of users including privacy watchdogs almost two years ago when it announced that it would begin sharing data and user phone number with Facebook. Users could however, decide to opt out of this option if they choose to.

As would be expected, various interest groups and individuals were taken aback by that decision of WhatsApp to start sharing data of users with Facebook. This came out of nowhere and attracted a probe by the UK’s data protection watchdog.

ICO (Information Commission’s Office), via a statement issued by its commissioner, warned Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder that it had initiated a probe into the change in policy. Elizabeth Denham, the ICO commissioner said:

The changes WhatsApp and Facebook are making will affect a lot of people. Some might consider it’ll give them a better service, others may be concerned by the lack of control.

Our role is to pull back the curtain on things like this, ensuring that companies are being transparent with the public about how their personal data is being shared, and protecting consumers by making sure the law is being followed.

We’ve been informed of the changes. Organisations do not need to get prior approval from the ICO to change their approaches, but they do need to stay within data protection laws. We are looking into this.

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Author: Ola Ric

Ola Ric is a professional tech writer. He has written and provided tons of published articles for professionals and private individuals. He is also a social commentator and analyst, with relevant experience in the use of social media services.

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