Data protection authorities slam agreement as “an infringement of national data protection law”
WhatsApp has been banned from sharing data with Facebook by German regulators.
The messaging platform changed its terms and conditions last month. The updated policy allows the company to exchange certain user details – including their phone numbers – with parent company Facebook.
This move was roundly criticised by privacy campaigners, particularly since WhatsApp had previously garnered goodwill with end-to-end encryption and a complete lack of advertising.
Hamburg’s data protection commissioner has officially struck down the deal, issuing an administrative order which completely prohibits any transfer of information between the two companies. Facebook has also been ordered to destroy any data that has already been forwarded.
“After the acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook two years ago, both parties have publicly assured that data will not be shared between them,” a statement read. “The fact that this is now happening is not only a misleading of their users and the public, but also constitutes an infringement of national data protection law.”
“This administrative order protects the data of about 35 million WhatsApp users in Germany,” commissioner Johannes Caspar said. “It has to be their decision, whether they want to connect their account with Facebook. Zbog toga, Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance. This has not happened.”
Caspar also raised concerns about the privacy of individuals whose contact details may be stored in the address books of WhatsApp users, despite having no connection to the service themselves.
Germany is not the only country whose regulators are troubled by the deal. The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office has also promised to look into the matter, threatening to “pull back the curtain” on the relationship between the two companies.