Italian Antitrust Watchdog Targets WhatsApp For Unfair Terms of Service

WhatsApp is once again making headlines in Italy, albeit not in a positive manner. The Italian antitrust agency is targeting this popular communication service on suspicion of something being amiss with users sharing personal data. Moreover, the antitrust agency is concerned over how WhatsApp parent company, Facebook, is imposing “unfair conditions” upon platform users.

More Scrutiny For WhatsApp In Italy

The way WhatsApp operates is a reason for concern for the Italian antitrust watchdog. As of August 2016, WhatsApp is sharing users’ phone numbers with parent company Facebook. At that time, European regulators took a closer look at what this meant exactly, and an official investigation was launched.

Fast forward to today, and there is very little evidence of this research so far. But that doesn’t mean that Italy has forgotten about these issues, and they are scrutinizing WhatsApp and Facebook themselves. Right now the antitrust watchdog firmly believes that WhatsApp’s app forced users to believe that they were unable to use its services unless they agreed to new terms and conditions. To be more precise, this new “agreement” forces users to share personal data.

But there is more, as the watchdog also wants to look into WhatsApp’s new terms of use, which include how only the provider can legally terminate any agreement. Moreover, these same providers can interrupt the service if needed, while no one else can. All of this wording is very vague and leaves much room for speculation.

Assuming this investigation would lead to a fine for WhatsApp or parent company, Facebook, they could be fined for up to US$5.47m. That is not an outrageous fine by any means, as both companies earn that kind of money in mere days. However, it would set a legal precedent for other countries who want to take action against either company.

For now, WhatsApp is cooperating with data protection authorities to ensure that the company has been compliant with the law at all times. The company will also answer any lingering questions that they may have and will provide the necessary evidence should there be a demand for it.

All things considered, it seems that Italy wants to discredit WhatsApp to break its encryption down the line. Ever since end-to-end encryption was introduced in WhatsApp, governments all over the world have been attempting to block WhatsApp or have it shut down through legal means. This action by the Italian antitrust watchdog seems to be a similar ploy.

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