Facebook Suspends WhatsApp Data Collection in UK After Warning from Authorities


In August, WhatsApp announced that they had started sharing users’ phone numbers with Facebook, which acquired the messaging company for $19 billion in 2014.

Britain’s privacy watchdog has managed to get WhatsApp to agree to pause sharing user data with Facebook for the purpose of targeting ads. The watchdogs had concerns consumers aren’t properly being protected from having their information exploited by these companies.

In a statement on the ICO’s website, Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner, explained the reasons for the probe:

“I had concerns that consumers weren’t being properly protected, and it’s fair to say the enquiries my team have made haven’t changed that view. I don’t think users have been given enough information about what Facebook plans to do with their information, and I don’t think WhatsApp has got valid consent from users to share the information. I also believe users should be given ongoing control over how their information is used, not just a 30 day window.”

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said:

“WhatsApp designed its privacy policy and terms update to give users a clear and simple explanation of how the service works, as well as choice over how their data is used. These updates comply with applicable law, and follow the latest guidance from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office. We hope to continue our detailed conversations with the ICO and other data protection officials, and we remain open to working collaboratively to address their questions.”

While Facebook has stopped using WhatsApp data for “advertisements or product improvement purposes” in the UK for the time being, the ICO isn’t stopping there. They have asked the company to sign an undertaking that lays out how it will collect and use data and give users control of what is shared.

WhatsApp will continue to share data with Facebook in other countries around the world, with the goal of fighting spam and abuse on the messaging service.

[via The Telegraph]

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