Regulators in Germany are seeking to bar Facebook from collecting user data from its subsidiary, WhatsApp (via Bloomberg).
WhatsApp is now used by almost 60 million people in Germany and is by far the most widely used social media application, even ahead of Facebook. It is therefore all the more important to ensure that the high number of users, which makes the service attractive to many people, does not lead to an abusive exploitation of data power.
Up to now there has been no supervisory review of the actual processing operations between WhatsApp and Facebook that we are aware of. There is reason to believe that the provisions that will enable and expand the sharing of data between WhatsApp and Facebook will be unlawfully enforced due to the lack of voluntary and informed consent.
Facebook said in a statement that it is reviewing the information it has received from the Hamburg regulator and “will address their misunderstandings around the purpose and effect of the update.” The company added that it remains “committed to delivering secure and private communications for everyone.
To be clear, by accepting WhatsApp’s updated terms of service, users are not agreeing to any expansion in our ability to share data with Facebook, and the update does not impact the privacy of their messages with friends or family wherever they are in the world.
WhatsApp has in fact shared some user information with Facebook since 2016, such as phone number, but chat messages and phone calls remain private and protected with end-to-end encryption.
The formal case has been opened “to prevent unlawful mass data sharing, if necessary, and to put an end to unlawful consent pressure on millions of people.” Facebook get will the opportunity to respond to the allegations at a hearing before mid-May.