In August this year, Facebook-owned WhatsApp announced a change to its terms and conditions that meant it would start sending user data to Facebook, including phone numbers.
But now, as the Financial Times reports, Facebook has stopped collecting user data from the messaging platform across Europe.
In November, the company was forced to ‘pause’ data sharing between the two platforms in the UK, following pressure from the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Now, Facebook’s European regulatory body, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s Office, confirmed that European data collection has been suspended.
The change seems to be the result of pressure from privacy watchdogs, and means users will no longer have their information, such as the phone number used to log into WhatsApp and the frequency of usage, sent to the social network.
However, Facebook says the decision to halt data collection may only be a temporary suspension as the laws in question are debated.
The message WhatsApp users were shown following the policy change
“We hope to continue our detailed conversations with the UK Information Commissioner’s Office and other data protection officials,” Facebook said.
Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, and reassured users at the time that the two platforms would remain separate, with no data sharing between the two.
Changes to its policy, announced this August, caused somewhat of a backlash, with 28 European authorities signing an open letter to WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum, asking for data collection to be suspended.
Back in November, Elizabeth Denham, the UK Information Commissioner, said (via Telegraph): “I don’t think users have been given enough information about what Facebook plans to do with their information, and I don’t think WhatsApp has got valid consent from users to share the information.
“If that information is then exploited more than agreed, for a purpose we don’t like, then we’re entitled to be concerned.”
Facebook claims the data sharing will be used to help cut down on spam, by showing targeted ads on Facebook.
Germany has banned the data-sharing plans, and Facebook could face a fine of up to £500,000 in the UK if it goes back on its promise to halt the scheme.
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