People in Europe are going to have to be at least 16 years old in order to use WhatsApp, under changes the Facebook-owned messaging platform is introducing in the EU.
The changes, reported by CNBC, are intended to make WhatsApp compliant with the EU’s big new privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect on May 25. They also include the ability for users to request all the data that WhatsApp holds on them.
The data-request feature will be rolling out globally, but the new age limit will only be in force in the EU; elsewhere, the age limit will stay at 13.
WhatsApp is actually going beyond what the GDPR requires here. Article 8 of the law says EU countries can choose where they want to set the age of consent for the processing of personal data, as long as it’s between 13 and 16.
So, for example, the U.K. aims to set its age of consent at 13. Austria has opted for 14, and Germany is going for 16. There’s obviously nothing stopping WhatsApp from setting its own limit above what’s legally required, and it seems to have taken a one-size-fits-all-in-Europe approach for simplicity’s sake.
The question, of course, is how WhatsApp might possibly enforce its rule, given that it doesn’t collect much data on its users, and age and verifiable identity certainly aren’t part of that stash.