Germany officially bans Facebook and WhatsApp Data Sharing

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Facebook told to delete all user data passed on by its messaging service WhatsApp

Germany has officially banned WhatsApp’s controversial data-sharing deal with Facebook. The company said in an update to its privacy policy that it will share phone numbers and the details of the last time users signed on to WhatsApp with Facebook in a bid to better deliver targeted ads.

The Hamburg data protection commissioner, has now issued an administrative order that officially bans Facebook from sharing information with WhatsApp across Germany.

The data sharing deal was dealt its first regulatory challenge on Tuesday courtesy of Germany, which has said that the deal is “misleading” for users and “constitutes an infringement of national data protection law” given that WhatsApp and Facebook said publicly that data will not be shared between them when the merger took place.

Germany’s privacy watchdog said in a statement:

“Such an exchange is only admissible if both companies, the one that provides the data (WhatsApp) as well as the receiving company (Facebook), have established a legal basis for doing so.

“Facebook, however, has neither obtained an effective approval from the WhatsApp users, nor does a legal basis for the data reception exist.”

Johannes Caspar, Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, commented:

“This administrative order protects the data of about 35 million WhatsApp users in Germany.

“It has to be their decision whether they want to connect their account with Facebook. Therefore, Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance. This has not happened.

“In addition, there are many millions of people whose contact details were uploaded to WhatsApp from the user’s address books, although they might not even have a connection to Facebook or WhatsApp. According to Facebook, this gigantic amount of data has not yet been collected.

“Facebook’s answer, that this has merely not been done for the time being, is cause for concern that the gravity of the data protection breach will have a much more severe impact.”

A spokesperson for Facebook said:

“Facebook complies with EU data protection law. We are open to working with the Hamburg DPA in an effort to address their questions and resolve any concerns.”

This isn’t the first time the deal has been challenged. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office has said it intends to investigate the data sharing plans to make sure WhatsApp is being fully transparent about the controversial move.
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