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The New Arab Staff

Turkey probes WhatsApp following controversial privacy update as Erdogan office deletes app

WhatsApp's controversial new update has prompted user's to replace the app [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 January, 2021

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A controversial policy update by messaging service WhatsApp has prompted anger in Turkey where authorities are investigating a suspected breach of privacy.

Turkey has launched an investigation into WhatsApp after the popular social messaging application altered its privacy settings, sparking concerns across the world, including in Ankara.

The Turkish Competition Integrity Authority said in a statement it suspects the latest update by WhatsApp and its owner Facebook could be in violation of users' privacy.

The statement referred to WhatsApp's latest policy amendment which forces users to agree to share data - including phone numbers, IP addresses, browser information, battery level and more - with various companies affiliated with Facebook group.

Those who fail to do so will not be able to use the messaging app.

"By tapping Agree, you accept the new terms, which take effect on February 8, 2021," WhatsApp told users via an in-app notification.

"After this date, you'll need to accept the new terms to continue using WhatsApp. You can also visit the Help Center if you would prefer to delete your account."

Read also: Tech giants join Facebook battle against Israeli spyware company amid suspected UAE-Saudi Al-Jazeera hack

Turkish authorities said WhatsApp will not be allowed to implement its changes until a probe into the policy is completed.

The move against WhatsApp came just days after the office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed it would cease all use of the messaging app, urging citizens to follow suit.

Meanwhile, local alternative BiP has grown increasingly popular in recent days with at least one million users joining in just one day, the company said in a statement on Sunday.

Since 2013, BiP has attracted more than 53 million downloads, it added.

Globally, social media users have been urged to replace WhatsApp with Signal - a messaging service that has been popular with journalists, activists and the general populace in the Middle East for several years due to its perceived heightened level of privacy and security.

After Tesla founder Elon Musk suggested the application in light of WhatsApp's controversial new policies, Signal was downloaded more than 100,000 times, Forbes reported. 

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