NITDA highlights implications of new Whatsapp privacy policy for Nigerian users

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The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has alerted Nigerians on changes to Whatsapp Terms of Service and Privacy Policy which took effect on 15th May, 2021.

In a statement signed by NITDA’s Head of Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Mrs. Hadiza Umar, the agency advised Nigerians on how Facebook’s business decision affects their privacy rights

Facebook acquired Whatsapp in February 2014. Facebook currently has over 2.5 billion users globally, while Whatsapp has over 2 billion users. Whatsapp shared a reviewed Privacy Policy on 4th January 2021, informing its users outside the European Union that it would now share their information with Facebook and its sister companies.

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The new policy best renders the platform’s information sharing practices with Facebook and its companies.

“As part of the Facebook Companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, the other Facebook Companies. We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings, including the Facebook Company Products…”

According to NITDA, Whatsapp shares the following information with Facebook: Account registration information; details on how users interact with others; mobile device information; Internet Protocol address; and Location data etc.

The Facebook Team confirmed that private messages shared on WhatsApp consumer version are encrypted and not seen by the company. But the metadata (data about the usage of the service) which is also personal information is shared with other members of the Facebook Group.

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The Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) recognizes consent (a clear, unambiguous expression of privacy terms communicated by the controller and accepted by the Data Subject) as one of the lawful basis for data processing. Acceptance of the new privacy policy and terms of use implies that user data would now be shared with Facebook and other third parties.

Users will now be subject to the terms and policies of Facebook and other receiving entities with or without being direct subscribers to such services.

As a result of the foregoing, NITDA stated that Nigerians may wish to note that there are other available platforms with similar functionalities which they may wish to explore.

NITDA urges Nigerian Users to limit the sharing of sensitive personal information on private messaging and social media platforms as the initial promise of privacy and security is now being overridden on the bases of business exigency.

According to the Agency, Nigeria’s engagement with Facebook continues. “We have given them our opinion on areas to improve compliance with the NDPR. We have also raised concerns as to the marked difference between the privacy standard applicable in Europe, under the GDPR and the rest of the world.