SA’s Information Regulator vows to take further action over WhatsApp’s privacy policy

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The Information Regulator says it will take further action regarding WhatsApp’s privacy policy. The Regulator also wants WhatsApp and Facebook to appear before Parliament in South Africa.

The organisation says it could not reach an agreement with WhatsApp to revise its privacy policy in South Africa to the same standard used in the European Union. WhatsApp requires users to accept new terms for using the App by Saturday.

In a statement, the Chairperson of the Information Regulator advocate Pansy Tlakula says the Regulator has an obligation to ensure the protection of personal information of all South African citizens and monitor compliance of the Protection of Person Information Act by responsible parties. She says the Regulator will therefore take this matter further by seeking legal opinion.

“It remains the Regulator’s assertion that the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) has a privacy regime which is very similar to the EU regime, and therefore believes that WhatsApp should adopt the EU policy in South Africa, and other countries in the global south that have similar regimes. The Regulator remains of the view that despite WhatsApp operating in different legal and regulatory environments, there are effectively two privacy policies for the users of WhatsApp. There are substantial differences between the policies for users living in Europe compared to the one for users living outside of Europe,” says Tlakula.

Tlakula says the Information Regulator also asked the Parliament’s Justice and Correctional Services Committee to request Facebook South Africa and WhatsApp LLC to appear before the committee on this matter.

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy under the spotlight:

Tlakula says the Reseau Africain Des Autorite De Protection Des Donness Personelles (RAPDP), an African Network of Data Protection Authorities, which South Africa is also a member to, recently engaged robustly with Facebook on the issue.

“Given Facebook’s status as one of the world’s largest companies, the Regulator is of the view that it should work together with other organisations in order to hold Facebook accountable,” she says.

“The Network has made strong recommendations to WhatsApp requesting them to bring the WhatsApp privacy policy in line with Africa data protection laws. RAPDP emphasised that the privacy policy should be applicable to Africa in line with those applicable to other regions, particularly the European region,” adds Tlakula.

WhatsApp has given users until Saturday to accept its updated privacy policy. If they don’t, they receive a persistent reminder to review and accept the update. Failure to do so will lead to a limited functionality, as the app slowly disables itself.