WhatsApp: This is what happens if you don't accept our new privacy terms

If you don't agree with WhatsApp's new terms of service, here's what will change.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has outlined what will happen to the app if users don't agree to its new terms of service, but the data-sharing change has already been banned in Germany. 

WhatsApp users who don't accept the new terms after May 15 will eventually encounter "limited functionality" on the app until the updated terms are accepted.

WhatsApp plans to ratchet up its efforts to get users to accept the terms, first by using a "persistent reminder" that will happen a few weeks after May 15. 

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Following the period of persistent reminders, people who haven't accepted the terms won't be able to access their chat list. However, they will still be able to answer incoming phone and video calls. 

Also, with notifications enabled, users can tap on them to respond to a message or call back a missed phone or video call. But after this, WhatsApp will dial back functionality for users who haven't accepted the terms. 

"After a few weeks of limited functionality, you won't be able to receive incoming calls or notifications and WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to your phone," WhatsApp says in an FAQ

WhatsApp says it won't delete users accounts if they don't accept the update.

WhatsApp in January delayed enforcement of its new privacy terms after a public outcry over the terms allowing WhatsApp to share user profile data with Facebook and its customers. 

In February, it tried again to explain the changes, by which time tens of millions of WhatsApp users had signed up to rival messaging services, such as Signal and Telegram.   

The move to share WhatsApp user data with Facebook has already hit an obstacle in Germany.

Johannes Caspar, Hamburg commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (HmbBfDI), has issued an emergency order banning Facebook Ireland Ltd from processing personal data from WhatsApp for its own purposes. The ban lasts for three months while the regulator files a case with the European Data Protection Board to make the ban applicable across the EU.  

"The order is immediately enforceable," the privacy regulator said in a statement.       

"There is no legal basis for processing by Facebook for its own purposes, notwithstanding the approval of the terms of use currently obtained by WhatsApp," the regulator said. 

"The provisions on data transfers are scattered at different levels of the privacy policy, they are unclear and hard to distinguish in their European and international versions."

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It also adds that users aren't able to freely consent to the new terms because of the way WhatsApp is enforcing acceptance of the new terms. 

"The order is intended to safeguard the rights and freedoms of the many millions of users who approve to the terms of use throughout Germany," said Caspar. 

WhatsApp told ZDNet in a statement that the Hamburg data protection authority's (DPA) order will not stop it from proceeding with its new terms.

"The Hamburg DPA's order against Facebook is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose and effect of WhatsApp's update and therefore has no legitimate basis. Our recent update explains the options people have to message a business on WhatsApp and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data. As the Hamburg DPA's claims are wrong, the order will not impact the continued roll-out of the update. We remain fully committed to delivering secure and private communications for everyone."

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