WhatsApp message thread on iPhone XSource: Luke Filipowicz/iMore

What you need to know

  • Apple now requires apps to tell users what kinds of data they collect.
  • WhatsApp says it wants the same rules to apply to first-party apps, like iMessage.

Updated December 9, 2020, 11:00 PT: I'm told that Apple will be providing the same privacy detail for its own apps, just as it asks third-party developers to do. However, apps that don't have their own App Store page will have the same information made available on Apple's website. I'm not quite clear on how discoverable those details will be for users, though.

Apple now requires apps to tell users about the information they collect as part of its ongoing privacy push, but not all app developers are happy about it. Facebook-owned WhatsApp is one such app that now has to inform users about the data it collects, but it's already throwing shade.

While WhatsApp submitted all the information needed to keep it in the App Store, published a post that went into further detail. But speaking with Axios, a WhatsApp spokesperson went on to say that they believe Apple's own apps should have to play by the same rules.

Currently, only apps installed via the App Store have to include the new privacy nutrition labels. That means iMessage doesn't.

  • "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."

WhatsApp, perhaps rightly, worries that when people see the data it collects they will instead begin using iMessage – an app that doesn't say anything about collecting data.

WhatsApp's view is that the terms may spook users about what data WhatsApp actually collects, giving it a competitive disadvantage to iMessage.

Of course, it's highly unlikely that iMessage collects anything like the amount of data that WhatsApp does, but the underlying point might still be valid. Should iMessage have to play by the same rules even though it comes pre-installed?

At a time where Apple is under constant scrutiny for alleged anticompetitive behavior, the answer to that question could well be a 'yes.'