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French Privacy Watchdog Tells WhatsApp to Stop Sharing Data With Facebook

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The French data protection authority CNIL on Monday hit Facebook-owned messaging app Whatsapp over concerns about its data-sharing policy and obtaining consent in collecting user data.

According to CNIL, Whatsapp doesn’t offer users a meaningful chance to consent to having their data collected. “The only way to refuse the data transfer for ‘business intelligence’ purpose is to uninstall the application,” the watchdog said in its notice to Whatsapp.

A new report from Reuters details how French data protection authority CNIL said WhatsApp has no legal basis to share the data and gave the company one month to comply with the data protection laws. Failing cessation of data sharing, WhatsApp could face a sanction in the country.

The popular social messaging platform had amended its terms and conditions last year after Facebook took over the reins in 2014, so it now shares data belonging to its users – including phone numbers and user habits – with its new parent even if they are not Facebook users.

The CNIL later ruled that while WhatsApp’s intention of improving security measures was valid, the app’s business intelligence reason wasn’t acceptable because the data of its 10 million French users have actually never been processed for targeted advertising purposes. As a result, its investigations found violations of the French Data Protection Act.

“Following this update, the WP29 (group of European CNIL) requested explanations from Whatsapp on the processing implemented on the occasion of this data transfer and asked the company to stop this transfer for targeted advertising purpose,” states the notice.

“The Chair of the CNIL [has] decided, in order to verify the compliance of the processing implemented by Whatsapp with the Act, to carry out online inspections, to send a questionnaire to the company and then to summon it to a hearing,” the notice concludes.

Currently, CNIL and other European watchdog organizations have limited ability to impose significant fines. However, a new law set to go into effect next year will allow such groups to fine firms by as much as 4 percent of their international revenue.

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