Recall that WhatsApp recently updated its policies—and this will allow the app share your phone number with Facebook. This has continued to generate debates, with human right and privacy groups kicking against the move. On Tuesday, German authorities issued an administrative order, asking Facebook to stop collecting data on WhatsApp users.
WhatsApp’s argument was related in a statement it issued when updating its policy. The company said: “But by coordinating more with Facebook, we’ll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp. And by connecting your phone number with Facebook’s systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you’ve never heard of.”
Well, Germany’s privacy watchdog thinks otherwise, and argued that sharing WhatsApp user data with Facebook constitutes “an infringement of national data protection law.” In a statement on Tuesday, the group said:
“The fact that this is now happening is not only a misleading of their users and the public, but also constitutes an infringement of national data protection law. Such an exchange is only admissible if both companies, the one that provides the data (WhatsApp) as well as the receiving company (Facebook) have established a legal basis for doing so. Facebook, however, neither has obtained an effective approval from the WhatsApp users, nor does a legal basis for the data reception exist. It is clear that Facebook must respect German data protection law after the ECJ confirmed in its ruling from July, that national data protection laws are applicable if a company processes data in connection with a national subsidiary.”
Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg data protection commissioner, said Facebook has no right to use the said data without prior permission of those [WhatsApp users] involved.
“This administrative order protects the data of about 35 million WhatsApp users in Germany,” Caspar said. “It has to be their decision, whether they want to connect their account with Facebook. Therefore, Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance. This has not happened.”
Similarly, in August, the Information Commission’s Office ICO, the UK privacy watchdog, via a statement issued by its commissioner, warned Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder that it had initiated a probe into the change in policy. Elizabeth Denham, the ICO commissioner said:
“The changes WhatsApp and Facebook are making will affect a lot of people. Some might consider it’ll give them a better service, others may be concerned by the lack of control.
“Our role is to pull back the curtain on things like this, ensuring that companies are being transparent with the public about how their personal data is being shared, and protecting consumers by making sure the law is being followed,” Denham said in the statement.
The ICO is not against the fact that Facebook has the right to change its policies from time to time, it however, frowns at any process that would see the social media behemoth go against existing “data protection laws.”
In a statement Facebook said: “Facebook complies with EU data protection law,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an email statement to The Verge. “We will work with the Hamburg DPA in an effort to address their questions and resolve any concerns.”