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WhatsApp to suspend data sharing with Facebook

15 March 2018

The ICO launched its investigation after a WhatsApp update that indicated it would be sharing data with Facebook.

Questions arise that even though Facebook has its own in-house messaging application - The Facebook Messenger for which the company uses user data to optimize their advertisements and targeting then why was WhatsApp under question.

In her statement, the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said that her investigation wasn't "concerned about WhatsApp's sharing of personal data with Facebook when Facebook are only providing a support service to WhatsApp", adding that "this is common practice and if done consistently with the law, under contract, does not generally raise data protection concerns".

The conclusion? WhatsApp signed an undertaking in a public commitment to not share personal identifiable data with Facebook until both platforms can do so in a way that is compliant with GDPR.

WhatsApp has not identified a lawful basis of processing for any such sharing of personal data, the investigation reports said.

Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner, said WhatsApp has failed to identify "a lawful basis of processing for any such sharing of personal data" and sharing it would have involved processing the information for a goal other to that for which it was intended. This sharing of data would mean that Facebook would be able to use user data obtained from WhatsApp in a similar way that Facebook does for its Messenger users. Or how Facebook told regulators that it wouldn't be possible to link WhatsApp and Facebook account?

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Facebook-owned WhatsApp is reportedly working on a new data privacy option in compliance with the new legislation.

Denham also found that WhatsApp can not and, thanks to the newly signed agreement, will not share user data with Facebook for anything other than basic data processing. Crucially, WhatsApp built its reputation on setting itself apart from social services like Facebook and its reliance on advertising, and all the data manipulation the comes along with that.

"I compliment WhatsApp in signing this undertaking, which I believe will build trust amongst their many United Kingdom users", added Denham."I would also like to stress that signing an undertaking is not the end of story and I will closely monitor WhatsApp's adherence to it".

The French data protection authority (CNIL) is in the process of bringing enforcement action against WhatsApp.

"At the heart of these concerns lies a desire for improved transparency, control and accountability, at a time when personal data is ever more central to the business models of key players in the digital economy", she said.

"WhatsApp cares deeply about the privacy of our users", he said. WhatsApp has already made changes to its privacy policy.

WhatsApp to suspend data sharing with Facebook