WhatsApp bans under 16s from using app ahead of GDPR changes

WhatsApp bans under 16s from using app ahead of GDPR changes

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, announced this week that it was raising the minimum user age to 16 in Europe but leaving it at 13 for users in the rest of the world, including the United States. Notably this change seems to affect all countries in WhatsApp's "European Region", not just those in the EU. And there are new restrictions on data collection on users under the age of 16, unless parents or guardians consent.

WhatsApp will also soon allow users to download a report detailing everything the app knows about you. The sudden change of strategy may have come along the heels of the fact that recently, WhatsApp has come under the scanner across Europe for its end-to-end encoded messaging system and its tactic to share more information with its parent organization, Facebook.

What is not yet clear is how the app plans to enforce the new rule - and whether it will ban current users who are below the new minimum age.

The U.S. Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule now bans online companies from collecting data about users who are under 13.

Facebook will instead ask users aged between 13 and 15 to "gain parental permission for sharing personal information on the platform". 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. Some companies unashamedly exploited unknowing Internet users' data to target sales, while others, such as Cambridge Analytica, did so to further political goals. The firm said in a blog post this week that it will not be asking for any new rights to collect personal information in the agreement. That's a huge change, and those fees will be necessary if the European Union is going to be able to afford the cost of enforcement.

It is the fifth most popular social network among that age group after Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. The regulation also includes rules to protect children from having their data collected or employed to create user profiles. Stick with us they say, and you won't find yourself crippled by burdensome fines, or brought to shame when irresponsible practices are denounced by the press.

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