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Facebook to keep its grubby mitts off your WhatsApp data… for now

Back in August, Facebook caused a storm when it revealed plans to harvest data from WhatsApp users and use it to ‘improve experiences across services.’

It didn’t go over too well, not least with the UK regulators who immediately started probing the controversial plan.

Today, following pressure from the Information Commissioner’s Office, Facebook will “pause” the plans to share data between its two apps.

Related: WhatsApp Privacy Storm – Why your data is under threat

Elizabeth Denham, the 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.”

However, it does not appear that today’s news puts an end to the matter as Facebook isn’t abandoning the scheme completely.

The firm has also refused to abide by Ms Denham’s demands for an insight into how it plans to use the data at this time.

So far we know the company wants access to the phone number used to log into WhatsApp as well as the frequency of usage ported over to Facebook. Users could opt out of the broader scheme, but nothing would stop those two pieces of information being sent to Facebook.

The company said at the time the data sharing was also to help cut down on spam, by showing targeted ads on Facebook.

The privacy policy change vowed that: “None of the information you share on WhatsApp, from status updates to messages, will be shared onto Facebook for others to see.”

The scheme has already been banned in Germany and faces similar sanctions around Europe. If Facebook goes back on its word in the UK, it could face a fine of up to £500,000.

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