EU data protection watchdogs warn WhatsApp, Yahoo on privacy

Fri Oct 28, 2016 1:08pm EDT
 
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By Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European privacy watchdogs warned WhatsApp on Friday over sharing user information with parent company Facebook, and cautioned Yahoo over a 2014 data breach and scanning of customer emails for U.S. intelligence purposes.

The popular messaging service's recent change in privacy policy to start sharing users' phone numbers with Facebook - the first policy change since WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014 - has attracted regulatory scrutiny in Europe.

The Italian antitrust watchdog on Friday also announced a separate probe into whether WhatsApp obliged users to agree to sharing personal data with Facebook.

The European Union's 28 data protection authorities said in a statement they had requested WhatsApp stop sharing users' data with Facebook until the "appropriate legal protections could be assured" to avoid falling foul of EU data protection law.

WhatsApp's new privacy policy involves the sharing of information with Facebook for purposes that were not included in the terms of service when users signed up, raising questions about the validity of users' consent, the authorities, known as the Article 29 Working Party (WP29), said.

A spokeswoman for WhatsApp said the company was working with data protection authorities to address their questions.

"We’ve had constructive conversations, including before our update, and we remain committed to respecting applicable law,” she said.

Facebook has had run-ins with European privacy watchdogs in the past over its processing of users' data. However, the fines that regulators can levy are paltry in comparison to the revenues of the big U.S. tech companies concerned.   Continued...

 
A 3D printed Whatsapp  logo is seen in front of a displayed stock graph in this illustration taken April 28, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration