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Old Jan 28, 2013, 12:34 PM   #1
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WhatsApp Messenger Comes Under Scrutiny Over Privacy Practices




WhatsApp Messenger, a popular cross-platform SMS and group chat replacement, is the subject of a joint report between Canadian and Dutch authorities. The report says the app violates the countries' privacy laws because users are required to give the company access to both users and non-users in its address book, reports Reuters.
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The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) and the Dutch Data Protection Authority, in a joint report released on Monday, said the app violated privacy laws because users have to provide access to all phone numbers in their address book, including both users and non-users of the app.

"This lack of choice contravenes (Canadian and Dutch) privacy law. Both users and non-users should have control over their personal data and users must be able to freely decide what contact details they wish to share with WhatsApp," said Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority.
The report revealed that WhatsApp stores the mobile numbers of non-users from users' contact lists, a violation of Dutch privacy laws. The Dutch Data Protection Authority said it could impose financial penalties if the violations continue.

In iOS 6, Apple introduced a new feature that required user permission before apps could access the users location, calendar, contacts, reminders and photos. However, the feature does not allow users to only give access to certain contacts -- instead, users are required to give apps access to their entire address book.

WhatsApp Messenger is available for $0.99 on the App Store. [Direct Link]

Article Link: WhatsApp Messenger Comes Under Scrutiny Over Privacy Practices
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 12:40 PM   #2
AbSoluTc
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Never did understand all the hype about this app.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 12:43 PM   #3
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it makes sense in this case tho ...

as soon as your friends get whatsapp they simply pop up on your contacts list within whatsapp, no need to search or add them
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 12:51 PM   #4
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That's the whole purpose of the application though!

It needs to know what all your numbers are, so you can easily message them without needing any additional information.

Viber does it too.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 12:55 PM   #5
kockgunner
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This always annoyed me because I never knew who actually had WhatsApp or not. It clogged up my list with numbers I don't care about.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 12:55 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by AbSoluTc View Post
Never did understand all the hype about this app.
Imagine iMessage, but with way more features, for all smartphone platforms...
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 01:10 PM   #7
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Say whatever you want: WhatsApp is one of the BEST apps!
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 01:17 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diwali View Post
Say whatever you want: WhatsApp is one of the BEST apps!
would it be useful on an ipod touch, for example, so you could send texts to people on all platforms? i ask because i got my son a touch - and want to give him some text capability...
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 01:18 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diwali View Post
Say whatever you want: WhatsApp is one of the BEST apps!
indeed, dont even remember the last time i sent an actual sms. 123 of my 136 contacts use it


Quote:
Originally Posted by scott911 View Post
would it be useful on an ipod touch, for example, so you could send texts to people on all platforms? i ask because i got my son a touch - and want to give him some text capability...
no, it only works with phones because it needs a phone number
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 01:27 PM   #10
RoboCop001
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Well how else does it automatically know who on your contacts list has WhatsApp? Magic? ... magic.... of course it's magic!

But seriously I don't see a problem here. Privacy concerns are just a hot topic.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 01:32 PM   #11
scott911
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no, it only works with phones because it needs a phone number[/QUOTE]


I did install some other app on his touch, and it created / provided a phone number . I did look at the whatsapp info page though, and it makes no mention of ipods though, so you might be right about this one...
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 01:43 PM   #12
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I hope this app doesn't get suffer or pulled because of the privacy-freaks.

I understand the need for privacy; I want it too. But the app ASKS for access to your contacts; if you choose not to give it access you don't have to use it.

It's not like there's something subversive or sneaky going on here. I use this app all the time to "text" with some Android-using UK friends; not having to pay international SMS fees is nice.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 01:45 PM   #13
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Trivial fix

Quote:
Originally Posted by RoboCop001 View Post
Well how else does it automatically know who on your contacts list has WhatsApp? Magic? ... magic.... of course it's magic!

But seriously I don't see a problem here. Privacy concerns are just a hot topic.
It would be trivial for WhatsApp to simply calculate a hash of the phone numbers before transferring them to the server. Since identical phone numbers would lead to the same hash, they could still very easily match them between users's contact lists.
My phone number SHA1-hashed is:
Code:
5dfa43101598fec3ec8d155437453f4e2f408676
Call me if you can

It boggles the mind, why this is not standard practice.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 01:50 PM   #14
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Given the strict and well-known formatting of phone numbers, along with the relatively small keyspace, performing an exhaustive search to find the number isn't that difficult.

This is also a problem that parallelizes trivially (give ten processors each 1/10th of the keyspace) -- you're boned.

I wouldn't be surprised if you got a phone call soon, in fact. Some people can't resist this challenge!

Quote:
Originally Posted by zhell View Post
It would be trivial for WhatsApp to simply calculate a hash of the phone numbers before transferring them to the server. Since identical phone numbers would lead to the same hash, they could still very easily match them between users's contact lists.
My phone number SHA1-hashed is:
Code:
5dfa43101598fec3ec8d155437453f4e2f408676
Call me if you can

It boggles the mind, why this is not standard practice.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 01:58 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bushido View Post
indeed, dont even remember the last time i sent an actual sms. 123 of my 136 contacts use it




no, it only works with phones because it needs a phone number

I think he can use text free or google voice to get the code.... used to work before.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 01:59 PM   #16
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While privacy laws in other countries are important to adhere to - it's pretty much a not a "real" privacy issue.

When I saw the headline - I was expecting to see something about messages being stored and/or something along that lines.

The purpose is clear. Your address book is uploaded because the app (as others have said) knows when a new person signs up for whatsapp and automatically adds it to your list.

If people really don't want this functionality - then maybe this app isn't for them. It seems pretty much a no-brainer that a messaging app is going to need access to my address book.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 02:08 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by zorinlynx View Post
Given the strict and well-known formatting of phone numbers
I challenge you to say that with a straight face after seeing the disaster that is the NZ numbering system.

Numbers starting with 3, 4, 6 or 7 or 9 have a total of 8 digits.
Numbers starting with 8 usually have 8 digits unless the second digit is 0 in which case they have 9 digits.
Numbers starting with 20 have 10 digits.
Numbers starting with 22 or 27 have 9 digits.
Numbers starting with 21 have anywhere from 8 to 11 digits.

It wouldn't surprise me if I've missed something or made an error, and this doesn't cover how you should actually format the number when writing it (there doesn't seem to be any consistency here, for example people will write "27 123 4567" but "274 123 456" because apparently numbers starting with "274" are more special than "27x"). I never did figure out the logic there.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 02:40 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zorinlynx View Post
Given the strict and well-known formatting of phone numbers, along with the relatively small keyspace, performing an exhaustive search to find the number isn't that difficult.

This is also a problem that parallelizes trivially (give ten processors each 1/10th of the keyspace) -- you're boned.

I wouldn't be surprised if you got a phone call soon, in fact. Some people can't resist this challenge!
Sounds promising... I will post here when I get the call
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 02:58 PM   #19
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Great idea for an app, awful name.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 03:28 PM   #20
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Playing devil's advocate here:

the problem here is not that you allow the app access to your contact list, it's that the app gets contact information of people whom have had no interaction. It's possible they have my phone number (and email and address? What does this app retrieve exactly?) even though I have not downloaded the app.

It's pretty much like your friend handing your number over and saying, "let me know if they sign up." However, because it involves something digital and privacy is hot, they're investigating.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 03:38 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by AbSoluTc View Post
Never did understand all the hype about this app.
I ignored this app for the longest time, but now I can't live without it. It's really well-designed and has a rich feature set. I use it daily to communicate with my friends around the world. No risk of running up texting charges. I just wish there was an iPad and Mac version of the app like there is for iMessage.

----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by bushido View Post
no, it only works with phones because it needs a phone number
It can work on non-phone devices if you authenticate using your phone's number. But then the phone can't use the app. Essentially, it's restricted to one phone number per device.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 03:52 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bushido View Post
no, it only works with phones because it needs a phone number
Imagine the boom when you could use it via email.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 04:17 PM   #23
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WhatsApp is outdated, slow and lacks features.

If you travel often, you'll notice that WhatsApp user identifier goes by the phone number and is tied to the phone number, once you change phone numbers you'll be prevented from entering previous conversations and everyone would need to manually update your phone number.

I use Line instead, its same as iMessage, except it works on every platform including PC and Mac.

Line, unlike WhatsApp, lets you register your account with email after the SMS confirmation on your device, so you can switch sim cards and still have a fully working contact list, your friends probably won't even know about it.

And when you're on your computer, it has a feature that lets you stop notifications going to your phone and automatically turns on the notifications when you're away from your computer for 3 minutes.

Line also has free voice calls via data thats similar to Viber.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 04:51 PM   #24
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Hardly outdated, slow or lacking in features.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zoobzone View Post
WhatsApp is outdated, slow and lacks features.

If you travel often, you'll notice that WhatsApp user identifier goes by the phone number and is tied to the phone number, once you change phone numbers you'll be prevented from entering previous conversations and everyone would need to manually update your phone number.

I use Line instead, its same as iMessage, except it works on every platform including PC and Mac.

Line, unlike WhatsApp, lets you register your account with email after the SMS confirmation on your device, so you can switch sim cards and still have a fully working contact list, your friends probably won't even know about it.

And when you're on your computer, it has a feature that lets you stop notifications going to your phone and automatically turns on the notifications when you're away from your computer for 3 minutes.

Line also has free voice calls via data thats similar to Viber.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 05:20 PM   #25
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I actually do not mind this. It's how the app works. By them storing "non-user" numbers, those users would automatically pop up when they have whatsapp installed too.
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