Facebook-owned WhatsApp has been making noise today, complaining about the privacy labels that Apple is forcing apps to display in the App Store. WhatsApp's developers have already complied with the requirement, but nobody seems happy about it. The issue? WhatsApp wants iMessage to have the same labels applied.
The thing is, Apple says that it will. Sort of.
Let's back up a bit. What WhatsApp is complaining about here is the new nutritional label-style privacy labels that Apple is applying to apps in the App Store. If an app is going to use your data in some way, the App Store will tell you. And in the case of WhatsApp, the company is worried that people will be put off by its labels and instead turn to something else. Like iMessage, for example.
WhatsApp's view is that the terms may spook users about what data WhatsApp actually collects, giving it a competitive disadvantage to iMessage.
iMessage, of course, is preinstalled on all iPhones and iPads. Apple says that it intends to offer up the same privacy labels for its own apps that it expects for those offered by third-party developers. And for apps that don't have App Store pages, those labels will be published on Apple's website.
The problem is whether anyone will actually read those labels. I've reached out to Apple to try and confirm how all of this will work and I'll update this piece if and when I get a response. But WhatsApp's base argument might still apply here – anyone who goes to download WhatsApp from the App Store will be faced with its dirty laundry, privacy invasions and all. Regardless of whether Apple puts the same information on the web or not, the iMessage experience will be completely different.
The most obvious way to fix this is to make iMessage downloadable from the App Store. But that just isn't workable. Apple won't – and shouldn't – ship an iPhone without a messaging app installed.
Whatever the actual fix is, I don't know it. Hopefully someone at Apple does, because you don't want WhatsApp to have the moral high ground. I'm not even sure WhatsApp, or indeed Facebook, would know what to do with it.