Facebook isn't allowed to collect WhatsApp data in Germany without express permission

The city of Hamburg’s data protection commissioner, Johannes Caspar, has struck out at Facebook after the company’s controversial decision last month to sweep up data from WhatsApp, the messaging platform that Facebook owns. The German regulator isn’t the first to criticise Facebook’s decision; at the end of August, the UK’s Information Commissioner launched an investigation into WhatsApp's changes to make sure they’re compliant with the Data Protection Act.

In a press release, Caspar stated that he had ordered Facebook to delete all data that has already been forwarded by WhatsApp, and said:

“This administrative order protects the data of about 35 million WhatsApp users in Germany. It has to be their decision, whether they want to connect their account with Facebook. Therefore, Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance. This has not happened. In addition, there are many millions of people who contact details were uploaded to WhatsApp from the user’s address books, although they might not even have a connection to Facebook or WhatsApp. According to Facebook, this gigantic amount of data has not yet been collected. Facebook’s answer, that this has merely not been done for the time being, is cause for concern that the gravity of the data protection breach will have [a much more severe impact]."

Following the order issued by the data protection commissioner, the New York Times reports that Facebook said it has complied with Europe’s privacy rules and that it was willing to work with the German regulator to discuss its concerns. If the social media giant does delete the data, if any has been collected, it will only have to do so in Germany, rather than across the entire European Union, which Germany is a member of.

Facebook did allow users to partly opt out of its data sharing scheme; however, the method of doing so was obfuscated and only available for a short amount of time, after agreeing to the new terms. Caspar believes that users should be able to give their permission, in a clear way, before any data is taken by Facebook.

Source: New York Times

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