Privacy groups urge FTC to probe Facebook-WhatsApp deal
At issue: Whether Facebook will exploit reams of personal information of WhatsApp’s more than 450 million users to target advertising.
“WhatsApp built a user base based on its commitment not to collect user data for advertising revenue,” reads the complaint filed Thursday. “Acting in reliance on WhatsApp representations, Internet users provided detailed personal information to the company including private text to close friends. Facebook routinely makes use of user information for advertising purposes and has made clear that it intends to incorporate the data of WhatsApp users into the user profiling business model. The proposed acquisition will therefore violate WhatsApp users’ understanding of their exposure to online advertising and constitutes an unfair and deceptive trade practice, subject to investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.”
Jacob Kohnstamm, who leads a group of EU privacy officials known as the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party as well as the Dutch agency that was already investigating WhatsApp, told Bloomberg the main concern is the collection of data from users’ address books on their phones when they download the application. “It is tempting to use this data” for other purposes, he said.
Facebook, a frequent target of European privacy regulators, says WhatsApp will operate independently. WhatsApp has promised users “nothing” will change.
“Facebook’s goal is to bring more connectivity and utility to the world by delivering core internet services efficiently and affordably — this partnership will help make that happen. As we have said repeatedly, WhatsApp will operate as a separate company and will honor its commitments to privacy and security,” she said.
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