Facebook's WhatsApp Blasts Apple Over Privacy Labels

Apple's new app privacy labels are unfair to outside companies, Facebook's WhatsApp said Wednesday.

Apple is now requiring outside developers to state how their apps collect and use data, in order to present that information in its app store, in an easy-to-understand, standardized format. Apple plans to present that information to consumers who download a new app for the first time.

WhatsApp argues this system is unfair because Apple's own messaging service, iMessage, is pre-installed.

“While providing people with easy to read information is a good start, we believe it’s important people can compare these Privacy Nutrition labels from apps they download with apps that come pre-installed, like iMessage,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said. “We think labels should be consistent across first and thirty party apps as well as reflect the strong measures apps may take to protect people’s private information.”

Even though iMessage is bundled with Apple devices, the company plans to create a privacy label for service, and make that label available on its website.

When Facebook purchased WhatsApp in 2014, the messaging service was known for its stringent privacy policies, which included promises to avoid sharing users' personally identifiable information for advertising purposes.

Two years later, WhatsApp announced plans to begin sharing users' phone numbers and other information with Facebook. Facebook said it would draw on those numbers to make friend suggestions to WhatsApp users -- and also send them ads, based on Facebook data.

The company also will use phone numbers for other purposes, including analytics and fighting spam.

WhatsApp promised to let people opt out of receiving targeted ads (and receiving friend suggestions) based on phone numbers. But the company said it wouldn't allow people to opt out of sharing their phone numbers with Facebook.

WhatsApp now says it asks users for access to their phone numbers in order to “make it easier” for people to message friends and family.

The company also tells users that if they use Facebook Shops on WhatsApp, their shopping activity will be shared with Facebook. “This means that product browsing and purchasing experience within Shops may influence what you see in Shops on other Facebook products,” WhatsApp states in a blog post.

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