Whatsapp is feeding Facebook's marketing database with your personal information
A German privacy regulator has ordered Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) to stop illegally gathering WhatsApp user’s data without their permission. The social network claims its actions are not in breach of European Union (EU) data protection law and will appeal the ruling.
Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information said Facebook had been collecting such data without users’ consent. The European country has 35 million WhatsApp users, none of which gave Facebook permission to share their personal information.
Hamburg commissioner Johannes Caspar said it is up to each user to decide whether or not accept Facebook’s data policies. Meanwhile, the online social media has to ask them for their approval in advance, which wasn’t the case.
By EU regulations, the independent federal agency has demanded Mark Zuckerberg’s company to stop sharing user data as well as erasing any information already transferred.
Security concerns about Whatsapp’s privacy policies
Even though Facebook runs operations in Germany from Hamburg, its main EU headquarters are in Ireland. Therefore, Facebook claims its activities are subject to Irish law.
However, a recent ruling from the European Court of Justice establishes if a company handles data via a subsidiary, like Facebook does in Germany, national data protection laws apply. Hence, the ruling gives Caspar jurisdiction over the matter.
Germany is not the only country concerned about Whatsapp’s new policies. United Kingdom, Italy, and India data privacy watchdogs are already investigating the legality of Facebook’s actions. Meanwhile, the EU and the United States said they would look into the matter.
Facebook was born with privacy concerns
Since its inception back in 2004, Facebook has always come under scrutiny for its privacy policies due to a significant amount of user data submitted to the service. When Zuckerberg created the site while attending Harvard, it almost got him expelled.
Harvard’s Administrative Board accused him of breaching security, violating copyrights, and violating individual privacy. Ultimately they dropped all charges. In 2008, Zuckerberg had to apologize to users for Facebook’s lack of customizable privacy.
In February 2014, Facebook acquired WhatsApp for approximately $19.3 billion. Privacy issues immediately began within the instant messaging service. That same month, German data protection authorities advised users not to use WhatsApp.
They claimed the service lacked privacy protection like end-to-end encryption. WhatsApp began implementing it in late 2014 and finished in April 2016. It wouldn’t be its last clash with German law enforcers.
Facebook and WhatsApp assured in 2014 they wouldn’t share user data, but they reversed their decision back in August. WhatsApp announced it would start sharing account information with Facebook.