French Watchdog Finds WhatsApp-Facebook Data Sharing Illegal

Herbert Rhodes
December 19, 2017

That violates "the fundamental freedoms of users", said CNIL.

France's privacy watchdog, on Monday issued a formal notice to WhatsApp, asking the messaging app to stop sharing user data with Facebook. WhatsApp has been given a month's time to comply with the order.

"It has been found that WHATSAPP effectively transmits data about its users to FACEBOOK Inc. for business intelligence and security purposes".

"The CNIL services have repeatedly asked WHATSAPP to provide them with a sample of French user data transmitted to FACEBOOK Inc".

Two other reasons were given by WhatsApp for sharing user data with Facebook: business intelligence and security.

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If Facebook doesn't cease collecting WhatsApp data, CNIL said, it will pursue further action including appointing an investigator who could recommend fines. The watchdog considered that the data transfer for "business intelligence" goal is not based on the legal basis required by the Data Protection Act for any processing.

More specifically, the regulator noted that WhatsApp hadn't obtained user consent for its policy change and that users who opposed it had no recourse but to terminate their account.

The agency also criticized WhatsApp for "insufficient" cooperation after the initial warning from the European Union privacy authorities that had said they had serious concerns over WhatsApp sharing user data when its users had only signed up to use WhatsApp, not Facebook. This is not the first time the company has been slammed for collecting data. When installing the application, users must accept that their data are processed for the messaging service, but also, in general, by Facebook for accessory purposes such as the improvement of its service.

In WhatsApp's case, the regulatory body found that the user data transfers of some 11 million French users were never used for some of the purposes originally intended, one of which is targeted advertising.

Failure to keep the deadline will lead to an official internal investigation that could result in the CNIL's committee responsible for Data Protection Act violations bringing to bear sanctions against the company.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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