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European WhatApp’s Data-Sharing Deal ‘Is Close’

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Facebook’s WhatsApp may soon be able to use customer data as agreement with European watchdogs nears

The European Data Protection Authorities (the so called “Article 29 Working Party”) has indicated it hopes to reach a data-sharing deal in the coming months with WhatsApp.

WhatsApp is of course owned by Facebook, but in 2016 the messaging app drew the ire of European data protection watchdogs over changes to its privacy policy.

WhatsApp had announced the changes to its privacy policy last August to allow businesses to send users messages, and Facebook to use phone numbers to serve up more relevant ads.

whatsapp mobile

Deal Close

But those changes provoked a frosty response from Europe, as the watchdogs argued that the privacy policy changes were not included within the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy when existing users signed-up to the service.

It requested that WhatsApp stop sharing users’ data with Facebook due to questions over the validity of users’ consent. Facebook confirmed that November that it had paused data sharing between its social network and WhatsApp across the European Union, after first suspending such activity in the UK.

But it seems that months later a data-sharing deal may be close to completion, possibly during the second quarter.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon, the lead EU regulator on privacy issues for Facebook as the company’s European headquarters are in Dublin, was quoted by Reuters as saying on Tuesday that she hopes for a final resolution by the summer.

“I think we are in agreement with the parties – WhatsApp and Facebook – that the quality of the information provided to users could have been clearer, could have been more transparent and could have been expressed in simpler terms,” she told Reuters. “We are working towards a solution on that.”

Privacy Concerns

Facebook of course acquired WhatsApp back in early 2014 for a cool $19 billion (£11.4bn). That acquisition had been a bumpy affair after two privacy groups officially complained to US regulators about the privacy implications of the acquisition.

At the time the founder Jan Koum denied claims the app would have to follow Facebook’s privacy policies.

WhatsApp famously has never carried adverts and always had had a strong privacy slant.

Koum at the time also pledged he would not allow user data to be used for advertising. But that has now changed as Facebook seeks to monitise the app.

Quiz: Can you protect your privacy online?