Facebook failed to ask for the permission of German WhatsApp users to share their information and potentially mislead people over how their data would be used in the future, the city of Hamburg’s data protection commissioner ruled on Tuesday (via the New York Times).
“It has to be their decision, whether they want to connect their account with Facebook,” Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg data protection commissioner, said in a statement. “Therefore, Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance. This has not happened.”
The ruling comes about a month after WhatsApp announced that it will start sharing some user information with its parent company. Facebook paid $19 billion two years ago to acquire the messaging service startup in an effort to expand its revenue stream.
Back then, WhatsApp said the acquisition would bring no changes, but that wasn’t the case – you know Facebook. Fast forward to last month, and what did we find? WhatsApp started disclosing the phone numbers and analytics data of its users to Facebook.
According to the Hamburg commissioner’s ruling, roughly 35 million German WhatsApp users could be affected, so it is demanding that Facebook delete all information already forwarded from WhatsApp.
Facebook’s reply was that it had complied with European privacy rules, and that it is willing to work with the commissioner to address the issue.
The regulator says the data was shared against the will of the millions of German WhatsApp users, and that Facebook should have asked for users’ consent before proceeding.