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WhatsApp raises minimum user age to 16 ahead of GDPR

Incoming data protection rules see WhatsApp increase age restriction up from 13 years old

WhatsApp is set to raise the minimum age of its European users from 13 to 16 to comply with new EU data protection rules, though the minimum age will remain the same for users in other parts of the world.

The Facebook-owned messaging service will ask users to confirm they are 16 years old or over when they agree to the new terms of service and privacy policy over the next few weeks.

Unlike Facebook, which is asking teenagers aged 13-15 to get permission from a guardian to have their information shared, WhatsApp is not asking for further rights to collect personal data.

"Our goal is simply to explain how we use and protect the limited information we have about you," the company said on its blog.

The company made the move to comply with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which aims to give people more control over how organisations use their data. Specifically, it states that processing a child's data is only legal when they are aged at least 16, or a parent or guardian has given consent on behalf of their child.

"Every message and call is secured by end-to-end encryption so that no one, not even WhatsApp, can read or listen to your conversations," the company said.

Under GDPR, WhatsApp will also have to allow EU residents to access the data WhatsApp has on them. With the latest version of the app, users across the world will also get this option.

WhatsApp wanted to share UK users' data with its parent company, but UK data watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) intervened over data protection concerns, leading WhatsApp to pause data-sharing indefinitely back in March, until it can prove it can share it legally under GDPR. The move, which extended to European users, also attracted the attention of EU regulators.

"We are not currently sharing account information to improve your product and ads experience on Facebook," WhatsApp said in its blog. "As we have said in the past, we want to work closer with other Facebook companies in the future and we will keep you updated as we develop our plans."

WhatsApp has not made it clear how it plans to enforce the new age restriction.

IT Pro has contacted WhatsApp for further information.

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