Forwarding sensitive information to third parties via WhatsApp is illegal

Share photos, forward screenshots of other people's conversations or include someone in a group of WhatsApp without permission is illegal behavioras experts from the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) have recalled on the occasion of today's celebration of the WhatsApp 13th Anniversary.

Experts remind that the Data Protection Act also applies to WhatsApp messages and that their infraction can be reported, although they admit that there are thousands of users who are unaware of these infractions and forwarding photos or conversations without permission is common.

The WhatsApp social network was created on February 24, 2009 by the Ukrainian nationalized American Jan Koum and currently has more than 2 billion users worldwideof which some 32 million correspond to Spain, where 84% of its users state that they communicate through this social network several times a day.

According to the UOC, it is estimated that currently more than 100,000 million messages a day on WhatsAppmany of which violate laws such as Data Protection or Intellectual Property.

According to UOC Law and Political Science professor Eduard Blasi, an expert in data protection, we commit a crime or an infringement when we send screenshots of another person without their consentespecially serious if data is disseminated openly or to a large number of recipients.

"The screenshots show conversations that can directly or indirectly identify a personwhich could lead to a breach of data protection," according to Blasi.

The regulation applies not only to identifying data —such as name and surname, ID or telephone number—, but also to identifiable data, that is, to those that allow knowing who is behind the conversation "without a disproportionate effort"according to the teacher.

The expert warns that "in addition to the data protection violation, depending on the type of conversation, the affected people could claim a compensation for damages, for a possible injury to their right to honor or privacy".

"And, beyond this, -he adds- in the most serious cases, if a private conversation of third parties is broadcast, a crime of Discovery and disclosure of secrets".

It is also a crime to spread images, audios or videos of a third person without their consent and in fact The Spanish Agency for Data Protection has imposed sanctions on individuals for disseminating audiovisual content of third parties without their permission.

Creating a professional WhatsApp group without asking for authorization is also illegal because to add a person to a professional WhatsApp group it is necessary to ask for prior consent.

Recently, Blasi recalled, the Spanish Data Protection Agency imposed a sanction a sports club that had created a WhatsApp group and had added a former member.

The Catalan Data Protection Authority (APDCAT) has recently sanctioned a city council for creating a WhatsApp group with citizensdespite having previously asked for their consent.

"The reason is that by adding these contacts, data is inevitably exposed —photo, name, surname or mobile phone number—, and this violates confidentialityBlasi explained.

UOC Professor of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications Helena Rifà, director of the Master's Degree in Security of Information and Communication Technologies, strongly advise against following untrusted links and delete the messages that arrive from unrecognized users, that is, from all those people that we do not have in the agenda.

Keeping your WhatsApp account tidy and "clean" is another of the expert's tipsa, which advises leaving the groups that we no longer use and eliminating them, and discarding messages with very attractive information, which invites us to take instant action and does not offer us time to think about the consequences.

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