WhatsApp asked to stop sharing user data with Facebook in the UK

Within days of the European Union's decision to stop WhatsApp from sharing users' personal data with Facebook for advertising purposes, the Information Commissioner in the UK has now issued a similar ban on the social networking app.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham says Facebook and WhatsApp have been asked to sign an undertaking to inform customers clearly how their data will be used.

As we all know, WhatsApp recently changed its privacy policy to share users' personal information with Facebook so that the latter can send targeted advertisements to users. The change would allow advertisers to send targeted advertisements to users via WhatsApp messages based on their shopping or discussions on Facebook. While this could be beneficial for those who need to stay informed on the latest products available in the market, it would be just the opposite for those who use WhatsApp only to connect with their friends and nothing else.

WhatsApp has been asked to stop sharing data by EU regulators

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham ran an investigation on WhatsApp's data sharing plans to see if they were consistent with the country's data protection laws. She noted that customers weren't informed clearly on how their data was going to be used and that they didn't have real control over their personal data after the first 30 days of agreeing to WhatsApp's new data sharing policy.

"I had concerns that consumers weren't being properly protected, and it's fair to say the enquiries my team have made haven't changed that view. 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," she said.

Your WhatsApp chats may not be as secure as you think they are

Denham added that her office has directed WhatsApp to stop sharing user data with Facebook until both companies come clear on how they will use such data in the future. The essence of the ruling is that the consumer must have the final say on how his/her data is being used. Facebook and WhatsApp have agreed to abide by the ruling but are yet to sign an undertaking to protect consumer privacy in the future. Denham concluded by warning both companies that if they do not abide by her ruling in the future, they may face appropriate enforcement action.

"We've set out the law clearly to Facebook, and we're pleased that they've agreed to pause using data from UK WhatsApp users for advertisements or product improvement purposes. We have now asked Facebook and WhatsApp 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. We also want individuals to have the opportunity to be given an unambiguous choice before Facebook start using that information and to be given the opportunity to change that decision at any point in the future," she added.

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