Yesterday, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”) and the Center for Digital Democracy (“CDD”) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against WhatsApp, Inc. According to the complaint, WhatsApp posted an entry on its company blog on August 25, 2016 announcing an update to its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. The updated Privacy Policy states that WhatsApp can share some information with Facebook and the Facebook family of companies, including the phone numbers provided by users when they registered for WhatsApp. WhatsApp and Facebook will use this data, the complaint alleged, to provide friend suggestions and targeted advertising on Facebook. Moreover, EPIC and CDD allege that users of WhatsApp will have a 30-day time period to opt out of the proposed data transfer, notwithstanding the fact that before this update, WhatsApp’s Privacy Policy promised not to use a WhatsApp user’s mobile number to send commercial or marketing messages without their consent. EPIC and CDD believe this change is bad for the privacy of WhatsApp users and a violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act (the federal prohibition on unfair and deceptive acts and practices). EPIC and CDD are asking the FTC to open an investigation. Additional news reports indicated that UK’s information regulator will also open an investigation into this change.

TAKEAWAY: Companies who wish to change their privacy policies or terms of use should carefully review the promises made to and the methods by which such changes are communicated to consumers. Additionally, companies should take care to ensure that all changes will comply with applicable laws in all countries in which they operate.