WhatsApp wants Apple's privacy labels to apply to iMessage as well

WhatsApp message thread on iPhone X
WhatsApp message thread on iPhone X (Image credit: 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.'

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.