Privacy changes coming to WhatsApp – but there are still questions in South Africa

Meta-owned messaging service WhatsApp announced several new privacy-related changes in recent weeks, but the app is still not aligned with South Africa’s laws, says Chanique Rautenbach of Barnard Attorneys.

Meta’s head of WhatsApp, Will Cathcart, announced the new group calls features on Twitter, saying the platform will now include the ability to mute and message specific people — even if you aren’t the one who placed the call. Cathcart said the platform also has a new indicator to show when more people join large calls.

Users can select the person they want to mute or message in a group call to see the options, and the changes have rolled out to Android and iOS users on the latest version of the app.

WhatsApp is also working on new features that will allow users to block persons from seeing their profile picture, status and ‘last seen’ information.

The new privacy and group call features are set to roll out incrementally to users over the coming months.

Some new features for group calls on @WhatsApp: You can now mute or message specific people on a call (great if someone forgets to mute themselves!), and we’ve added a helpful indicator so you can more easily see when more people join large calls.

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— Will Cathcart (@wcathcart) June 16, 2022

“Even though the services provided by the meta group of companies are still far from being compliant with South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), these changes, which will be implemented incrementally, may be viewed as a step in the right direction,” Rautenbach said

WhatsApp faced a public outcry in 2021 to unilateral changes made to the WhatsApp user terms dealing with privacy. This resulted in South Africa’s internet regulator issuing a warning about the proposed changes.

“But users may be slightly comforted by these new privacy updates. It remains critical for the users to acquaint themselves with the terms and conditions of WhatsApp and to understand what they agree to by their continued use of the messaging platform,” Rautenbach said.

Read: Phone and SIM card change planned for South Africa

Artmotion S.Africa

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