Dec 9, 2020 - Technology

Scoop: WhatsApp goes after Apple over privacy label requirements

Photo: Carsten Rehder/picture alliance via Getty Images

Facebook's global messaging service WhatsApp is protesting Apple's requirement that app owners submit information about the user data they collect for use in new privacy labels coming to Apple's app store.

The state of play: WhatsApp says that the provision is anti-competitive because Apple's own encrypted messaging service, Messages, is preinstalled on iPhones and doesn't need to be downloaded from Apple's app store, where the privacy labels are now required.

  • "We think labels should be consistent across first and third party apps as well as reflect the strong measures apps may take to protect people’s private information," a WhatsApp spokesperson told Axios.
  • “While providing people with easy to read information is a good start, we believe it’s important people can compare these 'privacy nutrition' labels from apps they download with apps that come pre-installed, like iMessage."

Catch up quick: Apple first announced at its worldwide developer conference in June that by January 2021,, the tech giant would require app developers to submit information detailing exactly what types of data they collect on users.

  • Because so many apps pull such different types of user data, Apple has tried to streamline what the labels will look like by using broad-base terms like "financial information" and "user content" to describe data collection broadly.
  • WhatsApp's view is that the terms may spook users about what data WhatsApp actually collects, giving it a competitive disadvantage to Messages.

Details: WhatsApp submitted the required information to Apple on Monday. In a blog post detailing the issue, the company clarified what type of information it does collect versus how it will be portrayed per Apple's new label.

  • "Our teams have submitted our privacy labels to Apple but Apple's template does not shed light on the lengths apps may go to protect sensitive information," a WhatsApp spokesperson said. "While WhatsApp cannot see people’s messages or precise location, we're stuck using the same broad labels with apps that do."

Yes, but: The new rules apply equally to all iOS apps, including all Apple‘s built-in apps like Messages. For iOS apps that don’t have dedicated product pages on the App Store, like Messages, they will still have the same privacy information be made available to users on Apple’s website.

The big picture: The privacy "nutrition labels" are part of a greater privacy push by Apple following its latest iOS 14 system update in September. Some of the updates have drawn criticism from Facebook and other app publishers, like gaming developers.

  • In August, Facebook warned advertisers that they could expect weaker ad performance from iPhone users once iOS 14 rolled out due to changes it planned to make to its Identifier for Advertisers service, which makes it easier for Facebook advertisers to target users on its apps for downloads.
  • Apple later said it would delay the rollout of the IDFA changes until next year.

What's next: Apple required all app developers to submit the privacy information by Tuesday. It's unclear when the nutrition labels will begin appearing in Apple's app store.

Go deeper: Frenemies Facebook and Apple square off

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect that Apple apps are also required to submit privacy information.

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