European privacy regulators probe WhatsApp privacy switch

Aug 31, 2016 | Facebook marketing, Regulation, WhatsApp

The chair of Europe’s leading group of privacy regulators said that it will watch with “great vigilance” WhatsApp’s change in privacy code, as the chat app opens up to ads for the first time. Last week saw Facebook relax the privacy policy of WhatsApp, giving the chat app new access to users’ data to sell […]

The chair of Europe’s leading group of privacy regulators said that it will watch with “great vigilance” WhatsApp’s change in privacy code, as the chat app opens up to ads for the first time.


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Last week saw Facebook relax the privacy policy of WhatsApp, giving the chat app new access to users’ data to sell to advertisers.
WhatsApp, which counts more than a billion users globally, revealed last week that it would start sharing users’ phone numbers with Facebook, helping it to target advertisements and friend recommendations across the social media network.
It said WhatsApp users could choose not to share their account information with Facebook.
A European Union body representing the bloc’s 28 national data-protection authorities said Monday that its members were following “with great vigilance” changes to WhatsApp’s privacy policy last week. The new policy disclosed the plan to share data with Facebook, while giving only existing WhatsApp users the ability to opt out of part of the data-sharing, setting off complaints from privacy activists in the U.S. and Europe.
“What’s at stake is individual control of one’s data when they are combined by internet giants,” the group, called the Article 29 Working Party, said in an emailed statement.
Britain’s privacy regulator last week that it was also planning to look into the issue, saying that some users “may be concerned by the lack of control.”
Consumer privacy advocates in the U.S. on Monday filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, alleging that the change represents an about-face on WhatsApp’s previous promise to consumers that “nothing would change” when the social network acquired the messaging startup in 2014.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy complaint filed with the FTC charges that the proposed changes to use WhatsApp user data for “marketing practices” constitutes “unfair and deceptive trade practices.”
WhatsApp said it “complies with applicable laws,” adding that “we look forward to answering any questions regulators or other stakeholders have about this update.”

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