WhatsApp Groups and POPIA in Community Schemes

Community schemes and WhatsApp groups seem to go hand in hand but how do these groups stack up when it comes to POPI and what are the consequences at the end of the month when the grace period ends?

When it comes to community schemes, management are usually the admin in these types of groups and once they have added an individual to the group, all members have access to each other’s names and phone numbers. This in and of itself is not great but added to that, the animosity towards WhatsApp after they decided to update their privacy policy earlier in the year, and you have a very grey area in terms of data privacy.

A valuable article from the Daily Maverick in April by Sizwe Snail ka Mtuze and Stephen Newman had this to say:

“WhatsApp said it does not have access to private information such as individual conversations and that these are end-to-end encrypted. It claims its new policy only gives it access to “data” as opposed to “personal information”. What is concerning, however, is its use of the term “data”, because the line between data and personal information is diffused, and both are very valuable commodities that can be shared and sold.
WhatsApp’s response is that it only uses data about data (metadata) which, inter alia, assist marketers (who pay them for online advertising) to more accurately and directly serve and market to the consumer, based on search and purchase patterns. However, WhatsApp has access to all of its subscribers’ personal information, including phone numbers, email addresses, avatars, account registration details and service information, which is very revealing personal information. There is conflict between its policy and the protection of personal information as well as consumer protection regulations.
Adding to the concern is that WhatsApp is not a standalone company. Facebook has a huge amount of power globally. It owns the four most downloaded apps of the decade — Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp — as well as a range of other companies, including a stake in the Indian tech company Jio Platforms. The potential for cross-pollination of data and information is virtually unlimited.”

When thinking about a WhatsApp group in your community scheme, it is best to research as much as possible what would be most suitable for your community and the data of the residents who live in there.

Author: STC_wsi

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