S African Information Regulator Addresses Privacy Concerns About Proposed WhatsApp Changes
Johannesburg: The South African Information Regulator (IR), a body within the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, has expressed concern about the proposed changes that the free messaging service WhatsApp plans to introduce soon. The IR said it was concerned that WhatsApp cannot process phone numbers from users’ mobile phones and pass them on to a third party, in this case Facebook, as this could be a contravention of South African privacy laws, specifically the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA).
“WhatsApp cannot, without obtaining prior authorisation from the IR in terms of section 57 of POPIA, process any contact information of its users for a purpose other than the one for which the number was specifically intended at collection, with the aim of linking that information jointly with information processed by other Facebook companies,” it said. The IR also queried why South Africa was being treated differently from EU countries which would receive significantly higher privacy protection than people on the African continent.
“We are very concerned about these different standards that apply to us (as) our legislation is very similar to that of the EU. It was based on that model deliberately as it provides a significantly better model for the protection of personal information than that in other jurisdictions. “We do not understand why Facebook has adopted this differentiation between Europe and Africa,” said the chairperson of the IR, Adv. Pansy Tlakula.
The Information Regulator (South Africa) is, among others, empowered to monitor and enforce compliance by public and private bodies with the provisions of the POPIA Act.
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