WhatsApp Raises Minimum Age for EU Users to 16 Ahead of GDPR Implementation


With the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) looming on the horizon and coming into effect as of 25 May 2018, many prominent companies across various fields are beginning to take steps designed to protect themselves from the heavy fines that accompany violations of the new legislation. The latest to show their hand in this regard is the popular Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp, making it one of the first online messaging services to act in response to the upcoming changes.

WhatsApp have announced that in order to comply with the terms set out by the GDPR, which bans the processing of personal information of children under 16 unless a parent or legal guardian provides consent, they will simply raise their minimum age for users to 16 and effectively prohibit any users from whom they cannot gather data from using the service altogether.

Outside of the EU where the GDPR will have no effect, WhatsApp’s minimum age will remain at 13; a clear indication that their primary concern is the gathering of data for advertising and monetary purposes, rather than user experience.

Particularly unclear is how exactly the company plans to enforce the new age limit as they have never asked users to disclose their date of birth and they have already stated that this “will not change with the new update”. Basically they will in effect continue to gather data from underage users whom they know are making use of the service by lying about their age, but by covering themselves in their terms and conditions they can do so without penalty.

As for parent company Facebook, their flagship platform will do things a little differently. Users of the site under the age of 16 will be directed to a parent or guardian who can then give the company permission to gather data; if permission is not granted these users will not be subject to targeted advertising, nor will they be allowed to include and religious or political views on their profile.

“These teens will see a less personalised version of Facebook with restricted sharing and less relevant ads until they get permission from a parent or guardian to use all aspects of Facebook,” the company said.

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