WhatsApp Messenger Comes Under Scrutiny Over Privacy Practices

Discussion in 'iOS Blog Discussion' started by MacRumors, Jan 28, 2013.

  1. macrumors bot



    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.
    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
  2. macrumors 68020


    Never did understand all the hype about this app.
  3. macrumors 603


    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
  4. macrumors G3


    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.
  5. macrumors 68000


    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.
  6. macrumors regular

    Imagine iMessage, but with way more features, for all smartphone platforms...
  7. macrumors 6502a


    Say whatever you want: WhatsApp is one of the BEST apps!
  8. macrumors 6502

    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...
  9. macrumors 603


    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
  10. macrumors 65816

    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.
  11. macrumors 6502

    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...
  12. macrumors 68030


    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.
  13. macrumors newbie

    Trivial fix

    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:
    Call me if you can :cool:

    It boggles the mind, why this is not standard practice.
  14. macrumors 68030


    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! ;)

  15. macrumors regular


    I think he can use text free or google voice to get the code.... used to work before.
  16. macrumors G5

    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.
  17. Moderator


    Staff Member

    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.
  18. macrumors newbie

    Sounds promising... I will post here when I get the call :D
  19. macrumors regular

    Great idea for an app, awful name.
  20. macrumors member

    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.
  21. macrumors 68000

    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.


    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.
  22. macrumors 6502a


    Imagine the boom when you could use it via email.
  23. macrumors newbie

    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.
  24. macrumors G5

    Hardly outdated, slow or lacking in features.

  25. macrumors 6502a


    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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