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ANKARA: Turkey has stepped up its ongoing feud with WhatsApp mobile messaging service over controversial privacy rules.

The country’s Personal Data Protection Authority on Tuesday followed in the footsteps of the Turkish Competition Authority by launching an investigation into Facebook-owned platform over its new data-sharing practices.

WhatsApp has asked all its users to agree to the sharing of more personal data or to be removed from the site.

The Competition Authority on Monday launched an investigation into WhatsApp and Facebook while suspending applications new data collection rules in Turkey. Meanwhile, rival WhatsApp messaging apps like Telegram, Signal and BiP have seen an increase in users joining.

The Turkish supervisor is expected to re-evaluate the situation on February 8, the deadline set by WhatsApp for users to accept the new terms of service.

The latest saga comes after a recent crackdown by Turkey on social media platforms operating in the country. Legislation introduced in July has enforced strict oversight of foreign social media companies with those with more than 1 million daily users forced to set up offices in Turkey or face gradual fines and internet bandwidth cuts. .

Cyber ​​rights activists claim the law, which obliges social media firms to wait for user-based user data in the country, could allow the government to tighten its control over online content by means such as blocking access or removal of content.

In November and December, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok face fines totaling $ 4 million each for refusing to comply with the legislation.

Erkan Saka, a communications professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, told Arab News that the reason behind the Turkish investigation on WhatsApp was probably because Facebook did not appoint a representative in Turkey as the government had requested.

This may have angered government circles. If the government were really interested in data protection, it would not use WhatsApp until a few days ago for its own communication purposes, he said.

Saka added that Facebook data privacy issues have been known for some time.

The Turkish government is also acting in a very vague way. Government authorities pushed for BiP, which is a catastrophic privacy, and then Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself opened a channel on Telegram, and now I see today that many pro-government trolls and columnists are also announcing their Telegram channels, he said. .

The Erdogans media office announced on Monday that the presidency will move all its WhatsApp groups to the coded BiP messaging app, developed by the country’s mobile network company Turkcell. BiP gained more than 1.12 million users in just 24 hours after the announcement.

However, as the Erdogan-led sovereign wealth fund owns a majority stake in Turkcell, many Turkish users are concerned about the extent to which their personal information will be protected as BiP also collects user data including contacts, location, call and message information.

A transparency report from Twitter for the first half of 2020 revealed that Turkey was still a world leader in terms of censoring social media content, having the highest number of third-party removal requests and holding accounts, and tweets.

Ussal Sahbaz, a technology expert, said: Countries like Israel and New Zealand are considered by the EU as third countries that have an adequate level of data protection. Such labeling increases the powers of countries against international companies.

Sahbaz added that although Turkey was a founding member of the Council of Europe, Ankara had been reluctant to implement the Council Convention regarding the automatic processing of personal data and the monitoring of cross-border data flows.

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