Whatsapp: data protectors warn against the use of the messenger

WhatsApp: Data protectors warn against the use of the messenger

Thuringia’s data protection commissioner Lutz Hasse has warned against the private use of the messenger service WhatsApp with reference to a court ruling. 99 percent of its German users would behave "deliktisch", when they use the service, Hasse said Wednesday during the presentation of his activity reports for 2016 and 2017.

Because anyone who uses WhatsApp allows the service to read out all the contact data on their smartphone. However, someone may only give this consent to WhatsApp if all the people in the user’s address book have agreed to it.

Hardly exists in reality

But since such complete consents practically never exist in reality, the use of the service is generally illegal, Hasse said. This view of data protectionists, he said, was also confirmed in 2017 by the Bad Hersfeld district court in a judgment. "This decision concerns only private people", Hasse said.

At the same time, the state data protection commissioner clarified that, in his view, the use of WhatsApp at Thuringian schools is not permitted. The data sent via WhatsApp would be transferred to the U.S., which is not permitted under Thuringia’s state laws for data from the school sector.

Increased questions to experts

Overall, according to Hasse, significantly more people have recently contacted him than in the past. If in 2016 there had been about 8400 entries, in 2017 there had already been more than 12.100 were. Where this increase comes from, he is not sure, Hasse said. The fact is, however, that more and more private individuals, as well as public authorities and companies, are contacting him because they have questions about the European General Data Protection Regulation. This set of rules will apply from May 2018 – for the most part as direct law in Germany as well, which only needs to be implemented in parts by further federal or state laws.

Another possible reason for the increase in requests, he says, is greater sensitivity to privacy concerns. For example, in 2016 and 2017, he said, people had also contacted his agency about disagreements with compliance with data protection principles in doctors’ offices. If, for example, medical findings were shouted across the waiting room, people would now turn to the authority and point out such grievances.

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