Facebook’s controversial use of WhatsApp customer data faces fresh scrutiny

EU body calls on DPC to examine social media giant’s practices

The European Data Protection Board, a panel of EU authorities, on Thursday said Facebook’s practices should be examined by the Irish privacy watchdog, its main regulator in the region. Photograph: Bloomberg

The European Data Protection Board, a panel of EU authorities, on Thursday said Facebook’s practices should be examined by the Irish privacy watchdog, its main regulator in the region. Photograph: Bloomberg

 

Facebook’s controversial use of WhatsApp customer data is set to undergo further scrutiny by the Data Protection Commission after EU regulators raised doubts about the social media giant’s updated policy.

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB), a panel of EU authorities, on Thursday said Facebook’s practices should be examined by the Irish privacy watchdog, its main regulator in the region.

The board stopped short of imposing a provisional EU-wide ban on data access, as requested by the Hamburg data privacy commissioner. The German authority in May imposed a three-month banning order on Facebook to stop it collecting German users’ data from its WhatsApp unit, asking EU regulators to take a bloc-wide decision.

“Considering the high likelihood of infringements, in particular for the purpose of safety, security and integrity of WhatsApp” and other Facebook units “the EDPB considered that this matter requires swift further investigations”, the EU body said in statement.

WhatsApp welcomed the decision not to extend the Hamburg DPA’s order, which it said, was based on “fundamental misunderstandings as to the purpose and effect of the update to our terms of service”.

“We remain fully committed to delivering secure and private communications for everyone and will work with the Irish Data Protection Commission,” a spokesperson for the company said.

Silicon Valley giants

The investigation will add to some 28 inquiries the Data Protection Commission has open into Silicon Valley giants, including Apple and Google, who all have their EU base in the Republic. Facebook accounts for nine of these investigations and more are pending into its WhatsApp and Instagram units.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, gave data regulators unprecedented powers to fine companies as much as 4 per cent of their annual sales.

Considering “the lack of information as regards how data are processed for marketing purposes, co-operation with the other Facebook companies and in relation to WhatsApp”, the EU watchdogs said the Irish authority had to investigate the role of Facebook in the data processing. – Bloomberg