WhatsApp sharing user data with Facebook would be illegal, rules ICO

A screen shot of the popular Whats App smartphone application is seen after a court in Brazil ordered cellular service providers nationwide to block the application for two days in Rio de Janeiro Brazil

WhatsApp Bound by GDPR

"People have a right to have their personal data kept safe, only used in ways that are properly explained to them, and for certain uses of their data, to which they expressly consent", Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said Wednesday. After their investigation, ICO reported that WhatsApp and Facebook can not share data beyond WhatsApp using Facebook for basic data processing.

WhatsApp just agreed not to share the personal information of its users in the European Union with Facebook until it can comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will be enforced in May.

Matters were not helped by the fact that WhatsApp founder Jan Koum had denied at the time of the acquisition in 2014, that WhatsApp would have to follow Facebook's privacy policies.

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The ICO said WhatsApp had "failed to provide adequate fair processing information to users in relation to any such sharing of personal data", adding that the sharing of such data "would involve the processing of personal data for a goal that is incompatible with the objective for which such data was obtained". They state that data protection should be both by design and default in any operation.

Because there's no evidence WhatsApp had been sharing data with Facebook, the ICO confirmed it won't be handing out any fines.

"I reached the conclusion that an undertaking was the most effective regulatory tool for me to use, given the circumstances of the case", she wrote. Any data sharing beyond that would put the companies in violation of the ICO's Data Protection Act, which prevents companies from processing personal information without a legitimate basis for doing so.

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Had WhatsApp shared its obtained data, it would have been in contravention of the first and second data protection principles of the Data Protection Act, relating to personal data being processed fairly and lawfully and for clearly specified purposes.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has completed its two years investigation in the data-sharing practices of WhatsApp. "I would also like to stress that signing an undertaking is not the end of e story and I will closely monitor WhatsApp's adherence to it", said Denham. This will be good news for United Kingdom users of social media services.

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