Ahead of a data law change, the messaging service WhatsApp is increasing the minimum age for users in many European countries to 16. The messaging service is under pressure for its plan to share more data with Facebook.The popular messaging service WhatsApp, which had more than 1.5 billion users in January, announced in a blog post on Tuesday that it was increasing the minimum age to comply with new data privacy rules in the European Union that come into force in May.
WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook Inc, will ask users in several European countries to confirm that they are at least 16 years old to be able to use the service.
It is not immediately clear how WhatsApp will vet the age limit as the service does not require much data from users.
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By raising the minimum age limit from 13 to 16, the instant messaging service is not asking for new rights to collect personal information under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), according to the blog post.
“Our goal is simply to explain how we use and protect the limited information we have about you,” it said.
In line with Facebook, WhatsApp’s minimum age of use will remain 13 across the rest of the world. Facebook says it is using a different approach for data policy involving teens between 13 and 15.
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Data scandal and privacy issues
WhatsApp, founded in 2009, has come under pressure in Europe for its end-to-end encrypted messaging system and its plan to share more data with Facebook.
Facebook also found itself in hot water after it was revealed last month that the personal data of its 87 million users wound up in the hands of consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which worked for US President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg faced a 10-hour grilling in front of US Congress following the data scandal. The company announced last week that it would begin rolling out new privacy policies worldwide, starting with changes in Europe.
GDPR, a historic law that gives Europeans the right to know about their stored data and the right to delete it, already blocked a move by WhatsApp to share users’ phone numbers and other details with Facebook to improve the product and target advertisements.
But WhatsApp said it still wanted to exchange data with its parent company in order to “work closer with other Facebook companies in the future.”
Other changes announced by WhatsApp on Tuesday include a downloadable report detailing the user data. The blog post also suggests safety tips to WhatsApp users.
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