It’s a data protection fiasco! With tracking apps, which are officially available in the app stores for iOS and Android, the WhatsApp activities of colleagues, friends and even strangers can be spied on and recorded in detail. The apps are now extremely popular. TECHNOLOGY BUTTON asked experts how WhatsApp users can protect themselves.
Tracking apps record “online” status
Any mobile phone number connected to WhatsApp can be entered in tracking apps such as. The tracking app then records when the owner of the number opens WhatsApp. At the end of the day, for example, a report can be created that shows at what time and for how long the number in question was online in WhatsApp – a more than dubious tool that can be misused for stalking and other spying. Just imagine someone showing you exactly to the second when and how long you were online on WhatsApp! In relationships or at work, this can really lead to problems. Don’t forget, the other person’s cell phone number is sufficient.
We don’t want to mention any of the tools here, but there are a few. These work without problems and for free – frightening! The problem has been around for a long time. TECHNOLOGY BUTTON last checked your problem a year ago. At that time, “Dasta” was buzzing through the app stores and offering the service. If an app like “Dasta” is deleted, new ones will spring up quickly. And these are even easier to use, as we found out.
Officially, you should be able to monitor your own online activity in networks like WhatsApp with tracking apps – so it sounds like an excuse.
Tracking apps use WhatsApp’s vulnerabilities
But how do tracking apps actually access this data? Quite simply: WhatsApp provides the data indirectly. The messenger does not make it possible to deactivate the “online” status. So the app probably doesn’t do anything other than jump as soon as the word “online” pops up on the relevant contact. The trackers do this in the background around the clock. WhatsApp could most likely deny the apps this information by allowing users to hide their online status. This currently only works with “last online”.
Are such apps illegal?
TECHNOLOGY BUTTON asked Philipp Stroh from the Berlin commissioner for data protection and information security , as well as the renowned lawyer Christian Solmecke , whether tracking apps are legal at all. The two experts on legal issues in the media world come to similar assessments after each short research. For example, data protectionist Stroh sees “the provider is responsible for this inadmissible processing of personal data”. The statement is based on the assumption that it is not the app, but the provider in the background that makes the data queries and presents them to the users.
Solmecke also sees a violation of personal rights regardless of Stroh. According to the expert for questions about the Internet and the IT industry, tracking is “only permitted with the consent of the respective user”. Since the app naturally does not ask the spied people, according to Solmecke there is “an illegal interference with the right to informational self-determination, which is why the app cannot be used in accordance with GDPR and is therefore illegal in its current form”.
Also interesting: Agree to new WhatsApp terms or delete the app
How can WhatsApp users protect themselves against tracking apps?
Unfortunately, technically there is currently no way to protect yourself from apps like Dasta. As mentioned, WhatsApp would have to take action here and allow the possibility of hiding online activity. The Google and Apple app stores would also have a real duty to simply delete the possibly illegal apps. Neither WhatsApp nor the app stores responded to requests from TECHNOLOGY BUTTON.
From a legal perspective, victims have the right to have their own data surrendered and, if the app is unlawful, to have all data deleted completely, Solmecke explains. However, it is difficult to get to the operator or operators, as they are often located abroad.
But Solmecke knows another way that victims of tracking apps can defend themselves. If you find out that another person has stored their data in the app and is thus spying on them, you can assert claims against this person. Because these users then use their data without consent and thus violate their personal rights. In addition to a request to cease and desist, those affected should also try to claim damages.