Facebook Plans for WhatsApp Stumble on EU Privacy Concerns

Facebook Inc.’s stalled plans to leverage WhatsApp’s user data are about to hit another regulatory bump in Europe.

Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, who heads a panel of Europe’s privacy watchdogs, said Facebook will probably face “additional action” over using WhatsApp’s data for its own advertising purposes when the group of regulators meets next month. Facebook has stopped merging some of the messaging service’s data with its own, but not necessarily all of it, she said.

“Looking at the evidence we have, the companies have stopped merging data but possibly not for all WhatsApp services,” Falque-Pierrotin, who also heads France’s data privacy authority CNIL, said in an interview in Paris. “It’s probably a bit more complicated than that.”

Facebook already suspended its policy shift after European privacy regulators warned last month they had “serious concerns” about the sharing of WhatsApp user data for purposes that weren’t included in the terms of service and privacy policy when people signed up to the service. But Facebook’s response to the letter needs a much closer look, said Falque-Pierrotin.

The merging of WhatsApp’s data is the first step by Facebook toward monetizing the platform since the social network’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg bought the company for about $22 billion in 2014. The EU’s 28 privacy commissioners, who meet regularly as the so-called Article 29 Working Party, coordinated their actions against Facebook and in their October letter urged the Menlo Park, California-based technology giant to better explain its plans.

“We told them that such a merging of data is not necessarily welcomed,” said Falque-Pierrotin.

In a statement, Facebook said WhatsApp’s privacy policy and terms updates comply with the law, and explain clearly how the service works and choices regarding how personal data is used.

“The updates also comply with applicable law and guidelines issued by EU regulators,” said Facebook, adding that it hopes to continue conversations with European regulators and remains “open to working collaboratively to address their questions.”

Source: Facebook Plans for WhatsApp Stumble on EU Privacy Concerns

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