Facebook Forced To Stop Siphoning WhatsApp User Data In Germany

Is Big Brother watching? Well, "he" no longer is in Germany. WhatsApp and Facebook have been banned from sharing information with one another by Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg Data Protection Commissioner.

WhatsApp and Facebook cemented their deal this past August in a move that was especially surprising since WhatsApp had originally argued that it wanted to know “as little about you as possible”. This promise was supposedly maintained when Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014.

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It appears that the companies quickly altered their tune. They later reasoned, “By connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you've never heard of.” Complaints were quickly filed in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Germany has now prohibited, “Facebook with immediate effect to collect and store data of German WhatsApp users...Facebook is also ordered to delete all data that has already been forwarded by WhatsApp.” The German government has reasoned that data can only be shared if both companies establish a legal basis to do so. Facebook does not currently have permission from WhatsApp users to take their information.

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There is even a chance data has been collected from people who do not use or have not given their permission to WhatsApp or Facebook. Caspar noted, “In addition, there are many millions of people whose contact details were uploaded to WhatsApp from the user’s address books, although they might not even have a connection to Facebook or WhatsApp. According to Facebook, this gigantic amount of data has not yet been collected.”

The European Court of Justice ruled that international companies must follow national data protection laws if they process data in those countries. Facebook has a subsidiary in Hamburg and therefore technically must comply with any of Hamburg’s data protection laws. It is currently unclear whether Facebook will follow or fight the law.

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