German authority tells Facebook not to collect data from WhatsApp

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A German regulator on Tuesday ordered Facebook not to collect data from subsidiary WhatsApp after an outcry about the privacy concerns of such an arrangement.

The top data protection official in Hamburg, a city of about 1.7 million in the north of Germany, said that Facebook cannot collect or store information from its WhatsApp users. The order also instructs Facebook to delete information it has already collected.

{mosads}“This administrative order protects the data of about 35 million WhatsApp users in Germany,” Johannes Caspar, the commissioner for data protection and freedom of information for the city, said in a statement. “It has to be their decision, whether they want to connect their account with Facebook. Therefore, Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance. This has not happened.”

Caspar can direct the company to take steps that apply to all of its German users because Facebook headquartered its German arm in the city, according to The New York Times.

The step is the latest in a worldwide battle over whether Facebook should be  drawing data on WhatsApp’s users into its lucrative ad targeting ecosystem.

Earlier this month, the companies announced that the messaging app would start sharing some data with its parent company. Users can opt out of having their data shared.

Privacy advocates say that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should pursue the company for unfair and deceptive practices as a result of the move.

WhatsApp, which Facebook purchased in 2014, has long made privacy a core tenant of its brand. Earlier this year it announced it would now encrypt all messages end-to-end by default. When it was acquired, the FTC told the two companies that the messaging platform “must continue to honor these promises to consumers.”

Advocates — some of whom have filed a complaint against Facebook at the FTC — also say the company is violating promises it made as part of a settlement with the agency in 2012.

The commission has declined to comment on whether it is investigating Facebook’s decision to use some of WhatsApp’s data. But Chairwoman Edith Ramirez has said that she expects, generally speaking, companies to abide by the commitments they make to the agency.

Spokespeople for WhatsApp and Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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