A joint investigation by Dutch and Canadian privacy regulators has found that WhatsApp, the photo-sharing, messaging, and all things social app has been storing non-users’ contact data on its servers. Although there is no law preventing the harvesting of data belonging to people who do not use the service, the Silicon Valley-based firm did not delete phone numbers after checking.
Investigators for the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Dutch Data Protection Authority discovered that the contacts were then stored in short-form code. Although the firm has not yet commented on the report, it has made other changes requested by the two privacy agencies, such as encrypting messages to prevent eavesdropping, and more security measures to prevent accounts being hacked by scammers.
Of course, it’s mighty hard to prove this isn’t just a simple oversight on WhatsApp’s part but a calculated attempt to grab an individual’s data and use it for pecuniary purposes. Could more cases like this fuel support for a tax on data harvesting, such as the one that a French report proposed last week? Or is it a matter of caveat emptor for social media users, that the more information you share online, the more firms such as Facebook and Google can use it to make money? And what about WhatsApp users? Are you deleting your account right now, even though that bolt, stable door, and horse interface analogy has never felt truer? Feel free to respond in the comments.