WhatsApp to face scrutiny from EU regulators task force over data sharing with Facebook


Last week EU privacy regulators increased their pressure on one of the world’s biggest data owners as part of their longstanding dispute over digital privacy in the bloc. WhatsApp instant messaging application will face scrutiny from the European Union’s data protection regulators for the sharing of user data with parent company Facebook, a year after it first face a warning over the matter. A taskforce of regulators launched by the EU has sent a letter to WhatsApp saying the company had still not resolved its concerns about data sharing and, most importantly, had failed to fully inform its users about those practices.

Background

In August 2016, two years after being acquired by Facebook for approximately $ 19.3 billion, WhatsApp changed its privacy policy to allow more data, including users’ phone numbers, to be shared with its parent company. Users were given 30 days to opt out of the data exchange policy and were notified of the changes in their first updated use of WhatsApp, but this did not prevent huge criticism from investing the US digital company.

Almost immediately, the change drew widespread regulatory scrutiny across the EU, focused on the requirement for users to give open consent to the sharing of data and to have them properly informed of their choice. UK’s Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, which led the “campaign”, openly said at those times she did not believe the firm had obtained valid consent from its users, as reported by the BBC.

New concerns

So one year later the pan-European data regulators task force Article 29 Working Party (WP29), which was launched by the EU to implement “a clear, comprehensive resolution” to comply with EU law, sent a letter to WhatsApp chief executive Jan Koum. In the letter, the Working Party said the company had still not resolved its concerns about getting user consent for the data sharing. Particularly, the task force noted that the information given users about the privacy policy update was “seriously deficient as a means to inform their consent”, and formally argued that WhatsApp hadn’t done enough to inform users about the agreement to share contents with Facebook.

“Further to its letter of 16 December 2016, the WP29 reasserts its concerns regarding the changes to the WhatsApp Terms of Service and Privacy Policy”, the letter said. “It further notes that a satisfactory resolution to the issues previously raised has not yet been achieved despite a significant period of time having passed”, the Article 29 Working Party added. “Whilst the WP29 […] notes there is a balance to be struck between presenting the user with too much information and not enough, the initial screen made no mention at all of the key information users needed to make an informed choice, namely that clicking the agree button would result in their personal data being shared with the Facebook family of companies”, the letter, which was published last Wednesday, also said.

Reactions

In a document seen by Reuters, WhatsApp responded to the WP29. “Over the last year we have engaged with data protection authorities to explain how our 2016 terms and privacy policy update apply to people who use WhatsApp in Europe”, the document said. “We remain committed to respecting applicable law and will continue to work collaboratively with officials in Europe to address their questions”, WhatsApp concluded.

On the other hand UK’s Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, who formally leads the task force, said she remains sceptical: “The efforts of WhatsApp and Facebook to resolve the issues have not yet addressed our concerns”, she said last week. “We remain committed to leading a European-level response to these concerns, which affect millions of users in the UK and across the EU”.

Past and future

Months ago, back in April, Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon said that it hoped to reach a deal in the coming months on the data sharing with WhatsApp. The declaration is obviously relevant as Ms. Dixon is the lead EU regulator on privacy issues for Facebook, since the company’s European headquarters are in Dublin. “I think we are in agreement with the parties [WhatsApp and Facebook] that the quality of the information provided to users could have been clearer, could have been more transparent and could have been expressed in simpler terms”, she told Reuters in an interview seven months ago. “We are working towards a solution on that”, she also said back then. However, it seems that the situation became even more complicated for the two US digital giants.

Last month, Facebook has been fined 1.2 million euros ($1.4 million) by Spanish privacy watchdog for allegedly collecting personal information from users in Spain that could then be used for advertising. According to AEPD (Agencia Española de Protección de Datos), the fine was the result of an investigation into the social network company, which ran alongside similar probes in several EU countries. Now a new EU data protection law will come into force in May which will give regulators the power to fine companies up to 4% of their global turnover, representing a huge increase on current levels.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

Why are the financial markets shivering again?

Brussels to tear down the trade wall with Mexico as opposed to Trump’s “walls”

Finance for SMEs: Alternative supply mechanisms do exist

The London City-EU connection holds despite of Brexit and the ban of LSE-Deutsche Börse merger

A Sting Exclusive: “Climate Change needs to be demystified”, Anneli Jättenmäki Vice President of European Parliament underscores from Brussels

France and Poland to block David Cameron’s plans on immigration

EU Parliament: ECB accountable for not supporting real economy

South Sudan’s foreseen genocide: from “Never Again” to “Again and Again and Again”?

Google once more under EU crossfire from a possible record fine and new Right to be forgotten case

Who would pay and who is to gain from the EU-US free trade agreement

The challenges of mental health: an inconvenient reality

Youth Internationalization: part of everyday life in JADE

EU’s Finance Ministers draft plan to raise tax bills of online giants like Google and Amazon

Cloud computing under scrutiny in the EU?

“CETA is a game changer for major trade agreements”. The Sting reports live from EBS 2015

Cameron’s Conservatives and UKIP are exploiting and cultivating anti-EU immigration sentiment but Labour party isn’t?

The historic accomplishment of a seamless EU patent and intellectual property space

German heavy artillery against Brussels and Paris

Do the EU policies on agro-food smell?

A Sting Exclusive, the European Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger writes for the Sting on “EU Industry: a major energizer”

Why European manufacturing SMEs in the South face fatal dangers

Greece’s last Eurogroup or the beginning of a new solid European Union?

Reality Shock

Christmas spending: Who can afford not to cut?

China Unlimited Special Report: The trip to China

Dear China

Brussels wins game and match in Ukraine no matter the electoral results

JADE Spring Meeting Live Coverage: Entrepreneurial skills in the digital markets

Volkswagen getting away with it in Europe

Migration Crisis: how to open the borders and make way for the uprooted

Is the EU denying its social character favouring a banking conglomerate?

Germany tries to save Europe from war between Ukraine and Russia

Regional policies slowed down by EU bureaucracy

Politics needs to “Youth UP” in order the ensure the future of our democracies

Commission paralysed before the banking leviathan

Menu for change: why we have to go towards a Common Food Policy

French election: Will France vote for a reformed or no EU?

2016 crisis update: the year of the Red Fire Monkey burns the world’s markets down

Fostering global citizenship in medicine

TTIP: why it is worth not to pull the covers over your head?

The challenges of mental health among the Syrian medical students

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “You just don’t know if the oil price will be 20$ or 100$ in the next 2-3 years!” top Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff underscores from Davos

EU Council agrees to reform the system for motor vehicles but with “restricted” power for the Commission

The EU Consumer Policy on the Digital Market: A Behavioral Economics View

The EU seals CETA but plans to re-baptise TTIP after missing the 2016 deadline

Parliament sets up plan to fight the 3,600 criminal rings of EU

Parliament votes reform for better European Co2 market but critics want it sooner than later

‘Two pack’ austerity package in force but with less vigor

Europe led by Germany seems vulnerable to Trump’s threats

EU opens a third antitrust file against Google

Draghi tells the Parliament the ECB to use all its weaponry; euro slides to parity with the dollar

The migration crisis is slowly melting the entire EU edifice

The IMF sees Brexit’s ‘substantial impact’ while the world’s economy holds its breath

To Bing or Not to Bing? That is the question

Eurozone: Uncertain future with unemployment ravaging the South

G20 LIVE: The European Sting covers online world news and the latest developments at G20 from Antalya Turkey

The G7 adopted dangerous views about Ukraine and Greece

Why Europe is more competitive than the US

The undead banks

An introduction to ‘Eco-Medical Literacy’ and its importance in shaping expert medical professionals

More Stings?

Comments

  1. I am really happy to read this weblog posts which contains lots of useful data, thanks for providing these kinds of data.

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s