ICO to investigate WhatsApp and Facebook data sharing

The ICO is concerned about WhatsApp’s plans to share more user data with Facebook in order to carry out targeted advertising. WhatsApp will share phone numbers and details of the last log-in.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “The changes WhatsApp and Facebook are making will affect a lot of people. Some might consider it’ll give them a better service, others may be concerned by the lack of control.”

“Our role is to pull back the curtain on things like this, ensuring that companies are being transparent with the public about how their personal data is being shared, and protecting consumers by making sure the law is being followed.”

“We’ve been informed of the changes. Organisations do not need to get prior approval from the ICO to change their approaches, but they do need to stay within data protection laws. We are looking into this.”

WhatsApp said in a blog post: ‘By coordinating more with Facebook, we'll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp. And by connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them.’

The company has now introduced end-to-end encryption, which means that all messages are encrypted by default, and only the user can read them.

The ICO’s press office declined to comment on the timetable of the investigation, or whether it would cooperate with Ireland’s DPA which regulates Facebook Europe. “Our original statement still stands and we don’t have anything further at the moment,” a spokesperson said.

See https://ico.org.uk/about-the-ico/news-and-events/news-and-blogs/2016/08/statement-on-changes-to-whatsapp-and-facebook-s-handling-of-personal-data/ and