UK privacy watchdog says Facebook agrees to suspend using WhatsApp users' data

Mon Nov 7, 2016 4:41pm EST
 
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By Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain's privacy watchdog said on Monday that Facebook (FB.O: Quote) has agreed to suspend using data from UK users of its WhatsApp messaging app for advertisements or product-improvement purposes after the watchdog said consumers weren't properly protected.

The watchdog said the social media giant faces action if it uses such data without valid consent.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) had said in August that it would monitor WhatsApp's new privacy policy, after WhatsApp, acquired by Facebook in 2014, said it would share user data with its parent company to better fight spam and improve users' experiences of both services.

The two companies have also come under scrutiny from the European Union's 28 data protection authorities, who last month requested that WhatsApp pause sharing users' data with its parent company until the appropriate legal protections could be assured.

"We're pleased that they've agreed to pause using data from UK WhatsApp users for advertisements or product improvement purposes," the head of the ICO, Elizabeth Denham, said in a statement. "If Facebook starts using the data without valid consent, they may face enforcement action from my office."

The regulator said it had also asked Facebook and WhatsApp to sign an undertaking committing to better explaining to customers how their data would be used and to give them ongoing control over that data. So far, the companies have not agreed.

"We think consumers deserve a greater level of information and protection, but so far Facebook hasn't agreed," Denham said.

A Facebook spokeswoman said WhatsApp "designed its privacy policy and terms update to give users a clear and simple explanation of how the service works, as well as choice over how their data is used.   Continued...

 
A picture shows the Facebook logo at the Facebook office in Berlin, Germany, August 29, 2016. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos