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WhatsApp ordered to stop sharing user data with Facebook

19 December 2017

France's watchdog CNIL has given WhatsApp orders to stop sharing user data with parent company Facebook.

Upon investigating the claims, CNIL ruled that WhatsApp never told its users it was collecting data for business intelligence and there is no way to opt out of this infringement without uninstalling the app.

According to CNIL, Whatsapp doesn't offer users a meaningful chance to consent in having their data collected. The WP29 (group of European Cnil) then asked WhatsApp to stop the transfer for targeted advertising. If Whatsapp does not comply it could sanction the company, the watchdog said. The watchdog considered that the data transfer for "business intelligence" goal is not based on the legal basis required by the Data Protection Act for any processing.

It mentioned in particular the transfer of data about users such as their phone number and how they use the app as needing specific permission from users. The authority rejected arguments by WhatsApp that it is subject only to the law of the US, saying that it becomes the authority in charge the moment any company is processing data in France.

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The regulator accepted that the transfer of user data for security purposes seemed to be essential to the functioning of the application. When installing the application, users must accept that their data are processed for the messaging service, but also, in general, by Facebook for accessory purposes such as the improvement of its service.

"WHATSAPP cannot rely on its legitimate interest in massively transferring data to FACEBOOK Inc. insofar as this transmission is not accompanied by sufficient guarantees to preserve the interest or rights and fundamental freedoms of the users since there is no mechanism allowing them to oppose it while continuing to use the application". This means there is no way WhatsApp can provide sufficient guarantees to preserve the interest or the fundamental freedoms of users since there is no mechanism whereby they can refuse while continuing to use the application.

It added that "no further action will be taken if the company complies with the Act within the specified timescale". If it does not, the agency may appoint an internal investigator.

WhatsApp ordered to stop sharing user data with Facebook