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WhatsApp Soon to Ban Under Sixteen from Using Its Service

27 April 2018

The messaging platform, which is owned by Facebook, is hiking its minimum user age in Europe to 16 from 13 in order to comply with a tough new data privacy law.

In line with the new regulations, users will have the right to completely delete personal information, and to use personal data of users under 16 years will have to obtain the permission of parents or guardians. The European users will be required to confirm the minimum age limit when they are prompted to agree with the new terms of service and a privacy policy.

The change is unlikely to go down well with WhatsApp's younger users, as a 2017 Ofcom report shows that around a third of UK-based 12 to 15-year-olds use the messaging app. A company blog post later elaborated, "Everyone - no matter where they live - will be asked to review important information about how Facebook uses data and make choices about their privacy on Facebook". The privacy policies of platforms - be it Twitter, Facebook, or anyone else - are going to be under greater scrutiny, but how much data the companies are still collecting is hard to ascertain. If this is not done, users will not see the fully personalised version of Facebook.

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The company made the move to comply with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which aims to give people more control over how organisations use their data.

Matthew Kershew, director of content at Iris, an advertising agency and management consultancy, says WhatsApp's new policy is "just a gesture", and is likely to be unenforceable.

Only half (51%) of companies say they have all the systems in place that will allow them to remove EU Citizen data from servers upon the request, including back-ups, in accordance with Articles 16 & 17 of GDPR.

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Facebook, by the way, has a big blue button for consent, but a mere hyperlink for deleting your account if you disagree with the new rules - even though deletion is the more momentous decision.

The EU data regulators are chiefly concerned over WhatsApp's sharing of user data with parent company Facebook. In the coming weeks, you will be able to download and see the limited data that we collect.

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WhatsApp Soon to Ban Under Sixteen from Using Its Service