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French privacy watchdog raps WhatsApp over Facebook data sharing

19 December 2017

In August 2016, two years after WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook, the former changed its terms and conditions to force users to agree to data transfers to Facebook.

France's data protection agency on Monday told messaging app WhatsApp it needs to obtain users' permission to transfer some information to its parent company Facebook and gave it a month to comply.

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To recollect, this is not the first time that WhatsApp and Facebook has been in limelight in regards of user data. However, this was a problem for the WhatsApp users, and questioned the application's privacy policy. However, the investigations found violations of the French Data Protection Act, namely for the sharing of data for "business intelligence".

CNIL "decided to make this formal notice public in order to ensure the highest level of transparency on the massive data transfer from WhatsApp to Facebook Inc. and thus to alert to the need for individuals concerned to keep their data under control", the regulator said in a statement on its website on Monday.

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While the company was first acquired by Facebook in 2014 amid privacy concerns, it wasn't until past year that Facebook had started taking WhatsApp user data, drawing criticism from activists and warnings from the European Union privacy watchdogs.

"The only way to refuse the data transfer for "business intelligence" goal is to uninstall the application", the watchdog said in its notice to Whatsapp. The Chair of the CNIL considered that the data transfer from WHATSAPP to FACEBOOK Inc. for this "business intelligence" goal is not based on the legal basis required by the Data Protection Act for any processing.

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After all the buzz about user data privacy, CNIL chose to send a formal public notice to WhatsApp to ensure the highest level of transparency on the massive data transfer from WhatsApp to Facebook and inform users to keep their data under control. The reason given was that since WhatsApp was located in the United States, it did not consider France as having jurisdiction in the matter. The watchdog said WhatsApp lacked the legal basis to share user data with Facebook and had violated its obligation to cooperate with the French authorities by providing sample user data to confirm compliance. The WP29 (group of European Cnil) then asked WhatsApp to stop the transfer for targeted advertising.

French privacy watchdog raps WhatsApp over Facebook data sharing