National Advertising Review Board Finds WhatsApp Encryption Messaging Claims Supported
Feb 06, 2023
New York, NY – February 6, 2023 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the appellate advertising law body of BBB National Programs, determined that WhatsApp, LLC provided a reasonable basis for two express claims for its WhatsApp messaging service analogizing SMS text messages to “open mail” as used in the advertiser’s television commercial titled “Doubt Delivered”:
- “Text messages are just like open pieces of mail, they’re all open.”
- “Every text message that individuals send is just as open as opened letters.”
The advertising at issue had been challenged before the National Advertising Division (NAD) by CTIA, a trade association. Following NAD’s decision (Case No. 7107), WhatsApp appealed, and CTIA cross-appealed, certain NAD findings and recommendations.
In agreement with NAD, the NARB panel determined that the principal message conveyed by the Doubt Delivered commercial is that SMS text messages, not protected by end-to-end encryption, are more vulnerable to being intercepted/read by unauthorized parties than are messages sent through technologies employing end-to-end encryption. Thus, the panel concluded that the two “open mail” claims are properly supported by the advertiser’s evidence as used in the present context.
In the underlying decision, NAD concluded that three unsupported implied claims were found communicated by the Doubt Delivered commercial and recommended that they be discontinued. However, the NARB panel reached a different conclusion and determined that there were no implied messages regarding wireless carriers in the Doubt Delivered commercial.
WhatsApp thanked the panel for “its careful consideration and the self-regulatory process that led to this decision.”
All BBB National Programs case decision summaries can be found in the case decision library. For the full text of NAD, NARB, and CARU decisions, subscribe to the online archive.
About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs, a non-profit organization, is the home of U.S. independent industry self-regulation, currently operating more than a dozen globally recognized programs that have been helping enhance consumer trust in business for more than 50 years. These programs provide third-party accountability and dispute resolution services that address existing and emerging industry issues, create a fairer playing field for businesses, and a better experience for consumers. BBB National Programs continues to evolve its work and grow its impact by providing business guidance and fostering best practices in arenas such as advertising, child-and-teen-directed marketing, data privacy, dispute resolution, automobile warranty, technology, and emerging areas. To learn more, visit bbbprograms.org.
About the National Advertising Review Board (NARB): The National Advertising Review Board (NARB) is the appellate body for BBB National Programs’ advertising self-regulatory programs. NARB’s panel members include 85 distinguished volunteer professionals from the national advertising industry, agencies, and public members, such as academics and former members of the public sector. NARB serves as a layer of independent industry peer review that helps engender trust and compliance in NAD, CARU, and DSSRC matters.
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