The move was massively criticized and the company blamed for exposing its users to risks as the data shared include personal details like phone numbers and device information. However, the company in defense said that the feature was meant for a better chatting experience and to battle out spam.
On Tuesday, WhatsApp stopped Facebook from collecting its users’ information for a while. The suspension comes as a result of pressure by European regulators according to a trusted source. Facebook has been having talks with officials across Europe for some months now and it has been decided that the company can only pick users’ data for spam combat only for now. The pause also gives both sides ample time to address their concerns amicably.
Facebook has been battling with European states for a while now
In September, German data protection authorities blocked Facebook from sharing user data with WhatsApp in the country alluding to privacy concerns. Johannes Caspar, Hamburg’s Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, insisted that users’ accounts should only be linked to Facebook upon their (users) approval and so they must be asked for permission.
Elsewhere, EU data protection group G29 officially voiced its concerns at the end last month by writing letters to both companies asking them to suspend data sharing pending suitable legal safety measures. In their open letter to WhatsApp chief director and co-founder Jan Koum, the authorities appealed to the leading instant service to hang up sharing information with Facebook until legality issues are cleared.
Two months ago, the European Commission proposed a tighter security grips for over-the-internet services like WhatsApp and Skype. The commission felt these services should be subjected to similar rules as traditional telecoms. Besides, the services would be required to provide emergency calling services alongside conforming to tighter privacy policies.
European authorities are already investigating Facebook for violating data protection. The authorities include those in the UK, France, Germany, and Italy while the Spanish authorities are starting their investigations soon.
Sharing data with Facebook a breach of conviction
WhatsApp is an idea of two former Yahoo employees, Jan Koum and Brian Acton. The app was released on the basis of simplicity and ads-free nature. However, in February 2014, Facebook acquired the company for a whopping $19 billion in 2014. Facebook was known for selling ads at that time so people suspected ads were coming to WhatsApp. Conversely, the company was allowed to operate independently with the co-founder Jan Koum as the CEO so that he could champion for WhatsApp conviction.
Maintaining the belief would only last until August 2016 when sharing WhatsApp users’ information with Facebook was announced. Subscribers were, however, given a thirty days’ period to opt out after which Facebook would start collecting their information including phone numbers and device type to be used for ads purposes. Users were to visit Settings>Privacy then uncheck the box asking them to accept the new Terms and Conditions. This option is no more.