France has ordered WhatsApp to stop sharing user data with Facebook, and has set a deadline of 30 days for the same, according to The Verge. The agency wants WhatsApp to seek user permission before transferring user data to its parent company.
Sharing user data without permission
It all started after WhatsApp edited its terms of service to include that it is sharing user data with Facebook to develop targeted advertising, security measures and gather business intelligence. France’s privacy watchdog CNIL stated that it does agree with WhatsApp’s intention of improving the service and security measures, but its business intelligence reason is not acceptable.
“WhatsApp cannot claim a legitimate interest to massively transfer data to the company Facebook Inc. insofar as this transfer does not provide adequate guarantees allowing preserving the interest or the fundamental freedoms of users since there is no mechanism whereby they can refuse it while continuing to use the application,” the agency said.
According to CNIL, WhatsApp never informed users before collecting the data for the business intelligence, and users are not given any option to deactivate the feature. The only option to stop WhatsApp from collecting user data is deleting the app. And, this violates the “fundamental freedoms of users,” according to CNIL.
WhatsApp not cooperating
The French watchdog stated that they are making their decision public to ensure greater transparency in the data transfer from WhatsApp to Facebook, and also alert users to keep their data under control. Further, the agency stated that it had asked WhatsApp more than once to offer a sample of the French users’ data that has been transferred to Facebook, but the social networking site has refused to furnish details citing that they are only subject to U.S. legislation, notes wccftech.
However, CNIL does not agree with WhatsApp, stating that any company that processes data in France is subjected to local laws. The security agency notes that WhatsApp is not legally permitted to share user data with Facebook, and has refused to cooperate with the French authorities time and again.
CNIL says that if WhatsApp continues to collect data despite the warning, the agency will look for an alternative course of action including appointing an investigator, who would recommend fines.
According to CNIL, “should WhatsApp fail to comply with the formal notice within the specified timescale,” the company may also face sanctions.
France is not the only European country where Facebook is on security agencies’ radar. German antitrust officials might come out with findings soon related to an investigation into whether the company has taken undue advantage of its position when a user signs an agreement which allows the company to collect massive data. The German agency says the developments would be ready by the end of the year.
Further, the EU’s 28 privacy chiefs have been skeptical from the start, and also expressed their concern in a letter to WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum, according to Bloomberg. Facebook started merging WhatsApp data only last year, its first step towards monetizing the platform since the acquisition in 2014 for $22 billion.