Feeds

Privacy warriors lob sueball at Facebook buyout of WhatsApp

Advocates moan to US regulator about Zuck&Co's no-ad promise

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Privacy groups have filed with the US Federal Trade Commission to try to block Facebook's $19bn acquisition of WhatsApp until the social network comes clean on how it's going to use the personal data of the messaging service's 450 million users.

Non-profit groups the Electronic Privacy Information Centre and the Centre for Digital Democracy are challenging the acquisition because WhatsApp has a commitment not to collect user data for advertising purposes.

"Facebook routinely makes use of user information for advertising purposes and has made clear that it intends to incorporate the data of WhatsApp users into the user profiling business model," the groups said in their filing. "The proposed acquisition will therefore violate WhatsApp users’ understanding of their exposure to online advertising and constitutes an unfair and deceptive trade practice, subject to investigation by the Federal Trade Commission."

The privacy advocates also said that many users were already worried about how WhatsApp would change under Facebook management. They cited the creation of the Facebook Page "Please Don't Ruin WhatsApp" and quoted journalists who had written about their worries and users who had posted their concern to Twitter.

The filing pointed out that some European data protection authorities had already launched investigations into the deal, including Dutch commissioner Jacob Kohnstamm and Thilo Weichert, the data protection commissioner for the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

WhatsApp stores user mobile phone numbers, but doesn't collect email addresses and other contact information. Both Facebook and WhatsApp have said that the firms would be run as separate entities after the acquisition and privacy policies would not change. But the filing pointed out that Facebook had changed privacy policies after mergers before, like after its 2012 acquisition of Instagram.

The advocacy groups want the FTC to force Facebook to "insulate WhatsApp users' information from access by Facebook's data collection practices", if the deal goes ahead.

"WhatsApp users could not reasonably have anticipated that by selecting a pro-privacy messaging service, they would subject their data to Facebook’s data collection practices," the filing complained. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Spies, avert eyes! Tim Berners-Lee demands a UK digital bill of rights
Lobbies tetchy MPs 'to end indiscriminate online surveillance'
How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?
Can you hear the difference? Can anyone?
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.