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Facebook urged to disclose WhatsApp privacy controls

Sam Loveridge


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WhatsApp logo

Privacy groups are urging Facebook to disclose what the company will do with WhatsApp users’ personal data.

Those opposed to the Facebook buyout are urging the US regulators to put a halt on the sale until the social media giant outlines its plans to keep users’ data private.

Facebook maintains that WhatsApp will continue to operate as a separate company, with all existing privacy arrangements upheld.

This includes the ban on collecting personal data and using it for targeting advertising as well.

“WhatsApp built a user-base based on its commitment not to collect user data for advertising revenue”, reads the complaint filed with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

“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.”

Facebook is purchasing the WhatsApp cross-platform messaging service for approximately £11 billion, using a combination of Facebook sticks and cash payments.

Currently, Facebook makes money from its 1.2 billion users by showing targeted ads based on their age, gender and other personality traits.

Privacy groups are worried that Facebook will employ the same tactics with WhatsApp and have requested that regulators investigate “specifically with regard to the ability of Facebook to access WhatsApp’s store of user mobile phone numbers and metadata.”

The regulators have also been asked to consider forcing Facebook to “insulate” WhatsApp user data from the Facebook data collection tools.

“As we have said repeatedly, WhatsApp will operate as a separate company and will honour its commitments to privacy and security,” said Facebook in a statement.

Read more: Facebook Buys WhatsApp – How, why and will Zuckerberg kill it?

Via: BBC


March 7, 2014, 6:20 pm

Weasel words from Facebook. Notice what they have not said. They have not said that they will not serve adverts based based on data from WhatsApp. They have not said that they will not leverage that data to serve ads. All they have said is that they will honour WhatsApp security and privacy. I'm sure they can do that and still target ads quite effectively, albeit with some level of granularity sufficient to argue that no individual person's data is individually used.
I can't see why they would pay $19Bn just to buy a few million in subscription revenue per annum. It makes no sense. So that just leaves the dog-in-a-manger motive, or ads.

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