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WhatsApp Faces Increased Pressure From EU Privacy Regulators Over User Data Sharing

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WhatsApp Faces Increased Pressure From EU Privacy Regulators Over User Data Sharing
Highlights
  • EU has warned WhatsApp again over its data sharing policy with Facebook
  • WhatsApp last year announced to start sharing user's data with Facebook
  • It still hadn't resolved its concerns over getting user's consent on this

European Union privacy regulators rapped WhatsApp on the knuckles for not resolving their concerns over the messaging service's sharing of user data with parent company Facebook, a year after they first issued a warning.

The popular messaging service changed its privacy policy last year to start sharing users' phone numbers and other information with Facebook. That drew widespread regulatory scrutiny across Europe, and WhatsApp subsequently suspended the data sharing for EU users .

In a letter sent to WhatsApp on Tuesday and published on Wednesday, the group of EU data protection authorities - known as the Article 29 Working Party - said the company had still not resolved its concerns about getting user consent for the data sharing.

They noted that the information given users about the privacy policy update was "seriously deficient as a means to inform their consent."

"Whilst the WP29 (Article 29 Working Party) 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 said.

The Irish data protection authority - which has jurisdiction over Facebook in the EU because the company's European headquarters are in Dublin - said in April that it hoped to reach a deal in the coming months on the data sharing with WhatsApp.

"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. We remain committed to respecting applicable law and will continue to work collaboratively with officials in Europe to address their questions," a WhatsApp spokesman said.

The WP29 also said users' consent was not freely given as WhatsApp effectively adopted a "take it or leave it approach in which users either signal their 'consent' to the sharing of data or they are unable to avail themselves of WhatsApp's messaging service."

A new EU data protection law will come into force in May which will give regulators the power to fine companies up to 4 percent of their global turnover, a huge increase compared with the present levels.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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