Facebook ‘pauses’ the use of data from U.K. WhatsApp users amid privacy concerns

Facebook has agreed to stop using the data of its WhatsApp users in the United Kingdom for ad targeting and product changes after a data protection regulator raised privacy concerns about the practice.

The Information Commissioner’s Office said in a blog post on Monday it told Facebook-owned WhatsApp it could face “enforcement action” if it didn’t do so. Facebook agreed to “pause” the use of U.K. WhatsApp user data, according to the regulator.

In August, WhatsApp changed its privacy policy, informing its 1 billion users that it would start sharing data with Facebook for ads and product improvement. It allowed new and existing users to opt out from having their data shared with the social media giant.

But the Information Commissioner’s Office said users aren’t being given enough information about how Facebook plans to use the data. WhatsApp also only allowed its existing users 30 days to opt out from having their data shared with Facebook.

“It’s important that we have control over our personal information, even if services don’t charge us a fee,” U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham wrote in a blog post. “We might agree to a company using our information in a certain way in return for us getting a service for free, but if that information is then exploited more than agreed, for a purpose we don’t like, then we’re entitled to be concerned.”

A Facebook spokeswoman shared this statement:

“WhatsApp designed its privacy policy and terms update to give users a clear and simple explanation of how the service works, as well as choice over how their data is used. These updates comply with applicable law, and follow the latest guidance from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office. We hope to continue our detailed conversations with the ICO and other data protection officials, and we remain open to working collaboratively to address their questions.”

Regulators in other countries, including Germany, also asked WhatsApp to stop sharing the data of its users with Facebook after the messaging service changed its privacy policy.

The Information Commissioner’s Office started looking into these privacy concerns eight weeks ago.

Facebook purchased WhatsApp in 2014 for what ended up being $22 billion after Facebook’s stock value increased.

Photo Credit: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

 

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