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WhatsApp allows users to download their account information

WhatsApp has finally begun offering users the option to download their own account information and settings. The new feature does not include messages and media (there is a different feature for that), but information like profile photo and group names. This feature, Request Account Info, will be rolled out to all users around the world in the latest update of the software. This new feature is designed to comply with the GDPR, Europe’s new privacy laws. One of the key requirements placed on companies by this law is that they should offer data portability, that allows users to request all data collected from them and enables them to migrate that data to another service.

The option will be available under Settings > Account in the app. The report will be available approximately 3 days after the date requested, WhatsApp said. The company added that while your report request is pending, certain account actions, including deleting the account, changing number or device or re-registering account, will cancel the request. If the request is cancelled, one can request another report, WhatsApp said.

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook (like WhatsApp), also recently announced that it will soon allow users to download photos, videos, texts and other information they have shared on Instagram through a new data portability tool. Till date, Instagram does not have an option to save or copy the images posted on one’s own profile, for its nearly 800 million users worldwide. This may help the photo-sharing platform comply with the EU privacy laws.

In the same update, WhatsApp has increased the minimum age for users in the European Union to 16 years, from the previous 13, as it tries to comply with the EU’s new privacy laws coming into force next month. The change will be available with the latest update of the software, WhatsApp said. Minimum age for use in other parts of the world continues to remain 13 years. With this update, users will be asked to confirm that they are at least 16 years old when they try to sign up on the app. We are not sure how effective this will be, as no other verification requirement is specified by WhatsApp.

How others plan to comply

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the EU is designed to empower users to control their data and is set to come into force on May 25. It gives its citizens the right to the right to know what data is stored on them and will force companies to delete personal data on user’s request.

To comply, WhatsApp’s parent Facebook has put forward a different policy. It will ask for parent/guardian permission for people between the age of 13 and 15 before it allows them to use some of its online services. Users in this age category will see a “less personalised” version of Facebook until a parent or guardian agrees. Facebook also announced some other rules, where it will seek permission of the user on whether they want it to use data from partners to show them ads, and if the choose to share their political views and relationship status details.

However, Facebook seems to be doing all it can to minimise the impact of the landmark privacy laws. All Facebook users around the world were governed by ToS agreed with the company’s international headquarters in Ireland, which would mean that all users would be governed by the GDPR. However just days ago, it confirmed its plan to make that the case only for European users, while 1.5 billion others from Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America would not fall under the GDPR.

Apple also recently announced software updates across all its devices to introduce new data privacy information immediately. An updated website will also provide new privacy management tools. And while Google has not detailed changes in policy or product to comply with the new regulation, CEO Sundar Pichai said that the company has been working on GDPR compliance for over 18 months as he tried to quell investor fears on the possible impact of the law on the company’s business.

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