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WhatsApp has agreed not to share personal information of EU users with Facebook

WhatsApp has signed an undertaking with UK's ICO to not share information of its users with its parent Facebook.

  • Published: March 15, 2018 9:16 AM IST
WhatsApp Pixabay feat

WhatsApp has agreed not to share personal information of its users with its parent company Facebook. The agreement brings truce to an ongoing battle between WhatsApp, its owner Facebook and the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The social messaging startup which Facebook acquired for $19 billion in 2014 has made it clear that it will share personal information of its users with Facebook until it can comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) drafted by the European Union. The GDPR is a wide-ranging protection framework that goes into effect in May and gives individuals more control over how their personal information is used by big tech companies across digital platforms.

The commitment from WhatsApp to not share user information with Facebook is outcome of an investigation conducted by UK’s ICO in August 2016. The investigation began after WhatsApp updated its terms of service and privacy policy to notify users that the service would share user information with Facebook. The change in terms of service raised concerns globally with several analysts pointing out that Facebook will have access to data from the time WhatsApp began its service in 2009.

“People have a right to have their personal data kept safe, only used in ways that are properly explained to them, and for certain uses of their data, to which they expressly consent. This is a requirement of the Data Protection Act,” writes Commissioner Elizabeth Denham in her blog post.

The investigation concludes that ICO would not be imposing a fine on Facebook since WhatsApp never intended to share information unlawfully. The announcement will serve as a big win for Facebook, which has been struggling with multiple issues at this moment.

In particular, Denham notes that her investigation found several issues with the idea of sharing personal data between WhatsApp and Facebook:
1. WhatsApp has not identified a lawful basis of processing for any such sharing of personal data;
2. WhatsApp has failed to provide adequate fair processing information to users in relation to any such sharing of personal data;
3. In relation to existing users, such sharing would involve the processing of personal data for a purpose that is incompatible with the purpose for which such data was obtained;
4. I found that if they had shared the data, they would have been in contravention of the first and second data protection principles of the Data Protection Act.

The undertaking signed by WhatsApp does not mean that data sharing is completely off the hook. After the GDPR comes into force in May, WhatsApp will continue to share data with Facebook or any other Facebook company for technical support and security purpose.

  • Published Date: March 15, 2018 9:16 AM IST