WhatsApp is raising the minimum age for its users in the UK and Europe because of GDPR

WhatsApp is raising its minimum age requirement from 13 to 16 in a bid to comply with new data privacy rules coming into force in Europe next month.

Thanks to the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), European users will now need to confirm they’re 16 years old before they can begin to use WhatsApp. The confirmation comes alongside a set of new terms of service and privacy policy issued from WhatsApp’s Irish headquarters. Users in the US will remain unaffected by this change.

READ NEXT: What is GDPR?

WhatsApp’s parent company, Facebook, isn’t excluding under 16-year-old users. In an effort to comply with GDPR, Facebook is asking users aged 13 to 15 to nominate a parent or guardian to give permission on their behalf. If they can’t do that, Facebook won’t personalise their feed.

It’s not quite clear how WhatsApp plans to enforce its 16-or-over rule. The service currently doesn’t request much user data and, according to a blog post, it doesn’t plan to ask for any new rights so it can collect more personal information.

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“We are not asking for new rights to collect personal information with this update,” the post explains. “Our goal is simply to explain how we use and protect the limited information we have about you.”

With that in mind, if all a user has to do to confirm their age is tick a box, it’s not really meeting the requirements of GDPR. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many services and websites I lied about my age to when I was a young internet user. In fact, I’m almost certain I regularly used MySpace and MSN Messenger under the age of 13.

So why is WhatsApp even bothering to comply with GDPR when it’s not even collecting your user data nor reading your messages? Other than having to comply if it wants to keep running services in Europe, WhatsApp has stated that it plans to work closer with its parent company Facebook in the future. It’s not yet clear how that will take shape, but it’ll undoubtedly make use of the information it knows about you to help provide relevant advertising on Facebook services.

READ NEXT: Here’s how to see everything Facebook knows about you

“We are not currently sharing account information to improve your product and ads experience on Facebook,” the post explains as it outlines WhatsApp’s data sharing policy. “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 also states that it’s going to begin allowing users to download the data it holds about them, letting you see just what they know about you. Facebook already offers this service, and it’s most certainly an eye-opening one.

Compared to Facebook, WhatsApp doesn’t know all that much about you. However, the information it holds on your mobile device, contacts, blocked numbers and your own number is certainly valuable to Facebook – and any advertisers who might be interested in targeting specific groups of people.

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