Current WhatsApp users must be at least 13, but in the next few weeks users of the messaging service in the European Union (EU) will have to agree new terms of service confirming they are at least 16 years old.
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It is not clear how the age limit will be enforced on the Facebook-owned app that has over 1.5 billion users (The Guardian). At the moment WhatsApp does not ask users their age when they join, or check their Facebook or Instagram accounts to find out.
WhatsApp announced this change (blog link) ahead of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on May 25, which aims to give EU users far more control over how companies use their information.
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However, WhatsApp plans to keep its minimum age limit at 13 in the rest of the world. Most social media apps are restricted to offering services to those under 13 in in the United States, partially because of the U.S. COPPA law (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule). (See WikiTribune‘s analysis on GDPR and Child protection groups say YouTube illegally collects kids’ data for more on COPPA.)
Although WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, Facebook has a separate data policy in order to comply with GDPR. It is asking EU children under 13 to nominate a parent or guardian to give permission for them to share information on Facebook or face seeing a not fully personalized version.