Facebook Ordered To Stop Processing German Users’ WhatsApp Data

Facebook is already under scrutiny in the European Union and the United States for privacy policy revisions for its WhatsApp messaging app. Now Hamburg’s privacy watchdog has ordered the social networking giant to stop processing the data of German WhatsApp users, according to Bloomberg.

Facebook WhatsApp
Image: Flickr

 No legal basis to use WhatsApp data

In a statement on Tuesday, Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, said the social media giant must also remove any data it already has, adding that there is no legal basis for the tech giant to use the information of WhatsApp users.

“This order protects the data of about 35 million WhatsApp users in Germany,” Caspar said. “It has to be their decision as to whether they want to connect their account with Facebook. Therefore, Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance. This has not happened.”

“Facebook’s answer, that this has merely not been done for the time being, is cause for concern that the gravity of the data protection breach” will have a severe impact, says Caspar. The privacy watchdog added that sharing the contact details of several million WhatsApp users with Facebook against their will would infringe upon German law, notes Bloomberg.

Facebook policy already being reviewed by the FTC

On many occasions, Europe has pushed back against the use of people’s digital information by U.S. tech giants. More than any other region, Europe has compelled companies like Facebook and Google to revise their policies after they breached the EU’s tough data protection rules.

This privacy pushback comes as WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in 2014, attempts to build closer links with the social media platform and looks for new ways to generate revenue from its more than 1 billion users globally.

In August, the tech giant said it would begin using data from the messaging app to let advertisers target users on Instagram and Facebook in a better way. Also the tech giant said it would allow businesses to send messages directly to WhatsApp users. The policy shift would probably assist WhatsApp in generating revenue but would irritate users who were drawn to its strong stance on privacy.

A joint complaint filed in August by two consumer privacy groups is being reviewed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The complaint claims that this move from Facebook violates U.S. federal laws prohibiting deceptive and unfair practices, says Bloomberg.