UK Information Commissioner’s Office to investigate WhatsApp-Facebook Data Sharing

Last updated:

Yesterday, WhatsApp revealed plans to share the mobile numbers and last seen status of its users with parent company Facebook for ad-targeting and marketing purposes.

The UK’s data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a statement announcing it intends to investigate the arrangement.

The ICO has responded to changes WhatsApp and Facebook are making to how they handle customers’ personal data.

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 has announced a change to its privacy policy which, once a user accepts its new T&Cs, will see it start to share some user data with its parent company.

“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,” WhatsApp wrote.

“Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you’ve never heard of.”

WhatsApp will also be sharing the data with the “Facebook family of companies” — so presumably its user data could also be fed to VR firm Oculus Rift and photo-sharing network Instagram.

WhatsApp data that will be shared under the new T&Cs includes the phone number a user used to verify their account, and the last time they used the service.

When asked about the ICO’s interest in its new privacy policy, a WhatsApp spokesperson commented,

“We look forward to answering any questions regulators or other stakeholders have about this update.”

Rapid Mobile

Rapid Mobile uses cookies, tokens, and other third party scripts to recognise visitors of our sites and services, remember your settings and privacy choices, and - depending on your settings and privacy choices - enable us and some key partners to collect information about you so that we can improve our services and deliver relevant ads.

 

By continuing to use our site or clicking I Accept, you agree that Rapid Mobile and our key partners may collect data and use cookies for personalised ads and other purposes, as described more fully in our privacy policy.

 

You can change your settings at any time by clicking Manage Settings or by visiting our Privacy Centre for more detailed information.

 

Privacy Settings saved!
Cookie Services

When you visit any website, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Because we respect your right to privacy, you can choose not to allow some types of cookies. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings. However, blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer.

These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources, so we can measure and improve the performance of our site.

We track anonymized user information to improve our website.
  • _ga
  • _gid
  • _gat

Decline all Services
Accept all Services