Is it legal to download WhatsApp Plus?

Back in January 2015 a campaign ran by WhatsApp ended up with thousands of bans for users that were using WhatsApp Plus. At that moment the community started to express some concerns whether the app is legal or not. It is obvious that some terms and conditions are breached but just how big of a problem is the third party app?

Shutting Down The WhatsApp Plus Development Process

In early January, Dr. Mounib Al Rifai, the person behind WhatsApp Plus and the one who handled the development of the third party app received a letter of “cease and desist”. He immediately posted on his blog that the development of his app will be shut down. This letter does reflect the decision of a court but more of a notification which asked the developer to stop his activity or he will be taken to trial.

WhatsApp has the legality and power to take this issue to court as WhatsApp Plus uses a registered name and technology without the consent of the original developer. What this means is the that Facebook, the owner of WhatsApp will easily win a court trial.

Is It Legal To Use WhatsApp Plus?

Since there was no trial there is no legal ban of the app but its development has been suspended. The code of the third part app could end up in the heart of the community which could continue the development and thus sending to court a group of individuals would be much more difficult.

From a legal standpoint it is not yet illegal to download and install WhatsApp Plus. However, by doing so the user violates the terms of use of WhatsApp and their access to the service can be restricted just like it was in early January. The company however gave users 24 hours to install the official version of the app.

Why WhatsApp Does Not Want You To Use WhatsApp Plus

The problem is mainly linked to privacy and monetization issues. WhatsApp Plus uses code that was originally developed by a different company which hold the legal rights over it. Also the third party app has its own monetization system that helps the developer receive funds for his efforts. From a moral standpoint Dr. Mounib Al Rifai was monetizing technology developed by others and most of the effort was done by someone else.

Another concern for WhatsApp is the privacy of their users. There is always a risk of having chats and personal data being leaked using a third party app. Using the official version means that Facebook takes responsibility for privacy concerned issues. Also the ones that use WhatsApp Plus breach the TOS of the official app and thus Facebook will not be held accountable if something wrong happens.

As a conclusion, downloading and installing WhatsApp Plus is not illegal but the original developers are entitled to ban and prevent access to the ones that use it. The worst case scenario would be for WhatsApp to sue its users and request financial compensation but this is highly unlikely. That would severely hurt their image and so far their actions showed that they want to protect their users.

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