The data gods at Facebook have run into another privacy problem with a data watchdog and privacy regulator in Germany.
Facebook has been ordered to stop gathering and sharing personal information on people who use the company’s WhatsApp messaging service in Germany.
A German privacy regulator has accused Facebook of violating Germany’s national data protection law. Under the law, Facebook is required to ask people for their permission before collecting and sharing their personal information.
Facebook and WhatsApp changed their data collection and sharing policy in August. That change allows WhatsApp to share some personal details and contact information, such as telephone numbers, with Facebook. The new policy also lets businesses contact people through the WhatsApp messaging service.
These privacy changes have raised the ire of privacy groups and regulators in the United States and Europe. According to Hamburg Data Protection Commissioner, Johannes Caspar, Facebook failed to get permission from WhatsApp users before changing their data sharing policy. He said it is up to the user to decide whether or not they want to share their WhatsApp information with Facebook.
Other data privacy officials in European countries, such as Great Britain and France, are also looking into the new Facebook-WhatsApp data sharing policy.
On September 27th, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information issued a public statement that said sharing people’s WhatsApp information with the app’s parent company, Facebook, violates Germany’s data protection law. In addition, the regulator ordered Facebook to delete any personal information that has already been shared by WhatsApp with Facebook.
Europe has some of the strictest personal data protection and privacy laws in the world. The German order claims to protect 35 million people who use the WhatsApp messaging service in Germany.
The order from the German commissioner marks the first time that a government privacy regulator has weighed in on the Facebook-WhatsApp data sharing controversy. Facebook has stated publicly that they already comply with European privacy laws and that they will appeal the order from the German data protection commissioner.