UK information commissioner to write to Whatsapp over Facebook sharing data.

woman typing on phone

Head of country’s data regulator says Whatsapp – one of the world’s biggest messaging apps vowed not to share user information in 2017.

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will write to WhatsApp asking it not to share user data with its parent company Facebook, after millions of users worldwide left the messaging platform to protect their information.

WhatsApp, which has more than a billion users, said it would start sharing users’ phone numbers with Facebook, allowing for more relevant advertisements and friend recommendations on the social media network.

However, the ICO does not have the power to block such a move. Elizabeth Denham, the data commissioner, advised a parliamentary committee that in 2017, WhatsApp had dedicated not to hand any consumer info over to Facebook until it could show that doing so would not breach GDPR regulations.

But she mentioned that settlement was enforced by the Irish data safety authority until the Brexit transition interval ended on 1 January. Now that Britain is outside the EU, making it certain that these guarantees are being stored falls to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

“The change in the terms of service, and the requirement of users to share information with Facebook, does not apply to UK users or to users in the EU,” Denham advised the digital, tradition, media and sport sub-committee on online harms and disinformation, and that’s because in 2017 my office negotiated with WhatsApp so that they agreed not to share user information and contact information until they could show that they complied with the GDPR.”

WhatsApp began to experience a haemorrhaging of users in July 2020, when the platform announced plans to introduce a new privacy policy in February this year. The move, however, has been delayed due to the sudden panic of its users upon finding out that the new policy would entail sharing data and user information with Facebook.

WhatsApp has said users could choose not to share account information with Facebook. The company said the change was part of its plan to explore ways for businesses to send messages using its platform. Earlier this year, they said that it was experimenting making businesses pay to reach their customers through the service.

Despite the planned changes to its privacy laws, messages on WhatsApp will still be protected by end-to-end encryption, and Facebook or any other tech giant will not be able to access users’ messages or content.

In the months following WhatsApp’s announcement, Signal and Telegram have added millions of users to their platforms. Prior to the announcement, Signal was an unknown platform that did not even register in the top 1,000 apps in the UK. It is now one of the most downloaded apps in the country. ​​​​​​​


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