WhatsApp accuses Apple of double standard on data privacy labels

The Facebook-owned service claims iMessage has an unfair edge.

Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Facebook has been... less than fond of Apple’s stricter privacy measures, and that extends to messaging services. A WhatsApp spokesperson speaking to Axios claimed that Apple’s soon-to-be-mandatory privacy “nutrition labels” are anti-competitive as they don’t apply to built-in iMessage chats. The messaging giant argued that labels ought to be “consistent” for both first- and third-party apps, and that it was “important” to have comparison opportunities. In other words, it’s worried the WhatsApp labels might scare you away and lead you to use iMessage instead.

The brand isn’t holding its app back, though. It submitted the label information on December 7th, making clear what WhatsApp collects. There aren’t any surprises. WhatsApp needs your phone number and profile info, and is aware of your IP address. It will look at your contacts and payment info if you volunteer them, and it gathers usage data to both improve the service and counter abuse. The service isn’t aware of your exact location, however.

Apple notes that the new privacy info requirements apply to every app in the App Store, including Apple’s own software. From that perspective, the company believes that it’s not getting any special treatment. While Apple’s Messages app doesn’t have a page on the App Store, the same privacy information will be available from Apple’s own site.

WhatsApp stopped short of saying it would take any legal action, and there’s a chance the complaints end here. There’s certainly a degree of irony when Facebook is still embroiled in legal battles over its data collection. However, the privacy complaint clearly adds to the pressure on Apple over its allegedly anti-competitive practices, including claims the company gives its own apps and services an unfair advantage. We wouldn’t rule out an escalation in the future.

Update 1PM ET: Added Apple’s response to WhatsApp’s comments.