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Add a contact to a WhatsApp group without your permission is a crime: up to 300,000 euros fine

Add a contact to a WhatsApp group without your permission is a crime
Add a contact to a WhatsApp group without your permission is a crime

The WhatsApp groups are a real danger, and we do not just talk about parent groups. In many occasions we are put in groups for a specific temporary purpose (hear people from WhatsApp, you could give the option to create groups with an expiration date to avoid having to remember to leave) and at other times we are added to groups that we almost did not expect and that are repeatedly filled with memes. But what happens when they put us into a WhatsApp group without notifying us?

In a condemnatory resolution, but without economic penalty, the Spanish Agency for Data Protection has finished the case in Boecillo (Valladolid) for the creation, it is assumed that by mistake, a group in which a councilor put 255 people to inform them of what happens in the municipality. The point that has led to the conviction is that you must collect the explicit permission of each user, because any member of the group can see the phone number of others, personal data protected by law.

The whole story generated by this news goes back to October 26, 2016. It was then when a councilor from Boecilla, a municipality of just 4,000 inhabitants south of Valladolid, created a WhatsApp group with 255 members (we imagined that there was no more the limit of members of a group in the app). As stated by the city council to the AGPD the intention of the creator of the group was not such, if not to create a broadcast list to share news of the town.

The councilor wanted (supposedly) to transmit municipal information and instead of creating a broadcast list he created a WhatsApp group

The error of the person who created the group was trying to solve the ballot, several users were already asking the rationale of the group, leaving it thinking that this would close the group. The exit of the creator of the group all that causes is that the administrator of the group became another user , so to realize the error the councilor contacted the new administrator to transmit the command to another councilor who was in the group so that he could take all the users out of the group and close it for real.

The telephone number is a personal data protected by the LOPD

One of the people who was added to the group did not take it well, with all the reason the world is said in passing, so he decided to take action on the matter by going to the AGPD. Provided all kinds of evidence to prove what happened, from impressions of the chat with questions from the surprised users or how it was seen who had created it and how it was possible to see the number of all the members, to statements by the Director of the Agency on the Use of social networks in an edition of ABC.

It was then when the Agency initiated the investigations, asking the city council for its version of the facts, which was based on the creation of the group was by mistake, although they claimed to have the verbal permission of most users to communicate with them via WhatsApp. In the case of the complainant, his number was recorded on the councilor’s agenda when he called to make complaints to the town hall, but he had not given his permission to be contacted by WhatsApp.

The error is similar to sending an email without a hidden copy and can end in a fine of thousands of euros

The municipality of Boecillo was only able to send 37 writings that had been authorized to use the telephone numbers for electronic communications by neighbors, so the numbers of another 218 neighbors were exposed in the group without their authorization , incurring part in a serious breach of the Organic Law on Data Protection. Thanks to the speed of the closure of the group, the Agency has decided not to impose any sanctions on the municipality.

What is certain is that in Boecillo he will not stumble again on the same stone, this example also being used for the rest of town halls, for companies and even individuals. You know, if you are going to create a WhatsApp group, ask for permission from future members, because you can be reported.


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