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WhatsApp and Meta make major change

Rules will not change privacy settings or WhatsApp’s relationship with parent company Meta, it insists

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 21 February 2023 11:17 GMT
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WhatsApp announced new features for its messaging app on 7 February, 2023
WhatsApp announced new features for its messaging app on 7 February, 2023 (Getty Images/ iStock)

WhatsApp and Meta are making a significant change to how they look after their users’ data.

Data on both services will be moved from being looked after by its companies in Ireland and regulated by that country’s authorities, to the global entities. The change was first announced in 2020, in response to the UK leaving the EU, but is now ready.

WhatsApp and Meta both stressed that the changes will not alter how UK users’ data is treated, their privacy settings or how the actual products work. UK users will also still be protected by the country’s privacy and data protection laws, and the new rules swap references to EU regulations for UK ones.

They also both stressed that there will be no change to data sharing between WhatsApp and Meta. That has proven controversial in the past.

In January 2021, WhatsApp rolled out a new update that led many to fear that the parent company – then known as Facebook – would be granting itself access to people’s private chats and other information. WhatsApp stressed then that the update did not affect the privacy of messages at all, but concern over the changes nonetheless led to worry among users who were reported to have left the platform as a result.

Under the new rules, that data will still be kept distinct, even as the entities that look after them will change. They will simply move from the Irish entities – Meta Platforms Ireland and WhatsApp Ireland – to the relevant global entities, which are run from the US.

Those companies will be responsible for looking after information and for complying with the UK’s GDPR, or data protection regulations.

The new changes will go into effect on 25 April.

Users will be alerted to the change with notifications on their timeline, over email and through an in-app banner on WhatsApp, starting this week. Those notifications will take them through to a summary of what is changing and what is staying the same.

“Like other companies, we’ve made changes in response to the UK leaving the European Union. UK users remain protected by UK privacy and data protection laws. We’re not making any changes to the way our products work and the updates to our terms and privacy policies don’t change the way we treat UK users’ data,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement.

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