France orders Whatsapp to seek users' permission before giving data to Facebook

19 December, 2017, 11:22 | Author: Shannon Newton
  • French privacy watchdog slams Whatsapp on data collection

France's data privacy watchdog may fine messaging app WhatsApp if it does not comply with an order to bring its sharing of user data with parent company Facebook into line with French privacy law.

The app has a month to comply with the order, according to a public notice posted to the French website.

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After its purchase in 2014 WhatsApp issued new terms of service notifying users that it would transfer their data to its new parent company Facebook.

After all the buzz about user data privacy, CNIL chose to send a formal public notice to WhatsApp to ensure the highest level of transparency on the massive data transfer from WhatsApp to Facebook and inform users to keep their data under control. If Whatsapp does not comply it could sanction the company, the watchdog said.

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In WhatsApp's case, the regulatory body found that the user data transfers of some 11 million French users were never used for some of the purposes originally intended, one of which is targeted advertising. Also, it is not free: the only way to refuse the data transfer for "business intelligence" purposes is to uninstall the application.

"While the security goal seems to be essential to the efficient functioning of the application, it is not the case for the "business intelligence" objective which aims at improving performances and optimising the use of the application through the analysis of its users' behaviour", noted Chair of the CNIL. After which, CNIL chose to issue formal notice to WhatsApp to comply with the Data Protection Act within one month. The authority rejected arguments by WhatsApp that it is subject only to the law of the US, saying that it becomes the authority in charge the moment any company is processing data in France.

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The French regulator said that WhatsApp had not properly obtained users' consent to begin sharing their phone numbers with Facebook for "business intelligence" purposes. This is not the first time the company has been slammed for collecting data. This means there is no way WhatsApp can provide sufficient guarantees to preserve the interest or the fundamental freedoms of users since there is no mechanism whereby they can refuse while continuing to use the application. If it does not, the agency may appoint an internal investigator.

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