Facebook 'fesses up to WhatsApp privacy blunder in UK

Chat app ponders procuring proper permissions from punters, Info Comish ponders punishment for non-compliance

UK information commissioner Elizabeth Denham

Facebook has “agreed to pause using data from UK WhatsApp users for advertisements or product improvement purposes” after a previously-announced probe by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

UK information commissioner Elizabeth Denham writes that eight weeks ago she kicked off an investigation into WhatsApp, because “I don’t think users have been given enough information about what Facebook plans to do with their information, and I don’t think WhatsApp has got valid consent from users to share the information.”

“I also believe users should be given ongoing control over how their information is used, not just a 30 day window.”

Facebook agrees with the first proposition, at least inasmuch as it has suspended its use of user data for an unspecified period of time. But Denham's post says The Social Network™ and its WhatsApp limb have not yet agreed to “sign an undertaking committing to better explaining to customers how their data will be used, and to giving users ongoing control over that information.”

Denham therefore warns that “If Facebook starts using the data without valid consent, it may face enforcement action from my office.” Which can mean fines. Big fines.

The commissioner also seems to have her eye on Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn, as her post offers this paragraph too:

It’s a particular concern when company mergers mean that vast amounts of customers’ personal data become an asset to be bought and sold. We’re seeing situations where companies are being bought primarily for this data, and when it is combined with information the purchasing company already holds, there’s a danger that consumers will have little control as datasets are matched and intrusive details revealed.

Facebook's various online mouthpieces are silent on the matter at the time of writing. ®


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