WhatsApp will not share data with Facebook

A screen shot of the popular Whats App smartphone application is seen after a court in Brazil ordered cellular service providers nationwide to block the application for two days in Rio de Janeiro Brazil

WhatsApp has agreed to not share data with Facebook (its parent company) until the two companies can share the information in a way that both comply with the EU's upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), according to a report from TechCrunch. As chair of the Article 29 Task Force on WhatsApp-Facebook data sharing, the ICO worked with European colleagues to bring a common focus and information base to the investigation.

GDPR will refine and enshrine the "right to be forgotten" laws as the "right to erasure", and give European Union citizens the right to data portability, meaning they can take data from one organisation and give it to another. This is a requirement of the Data Protection Act. Data breaches must be reported within 72 hours to a data regulator, and affected individuals must be notified unless the data stolen is unreadable, ie strongly encrypted.

"I reached the conclusion that an undertaking was the most effective regulatory tool for me to use, given the circumstances of the case", Denham said.

In September 2016, Denham said the ICO would choose its investigations carefully to make sure they are relevant to the public, and revealed that the ICO had begun a review of data sharing between WhatsApp and other Facebook companies.

But now WhatsApp has signed an agreement with the ICO not to share data with Facebook, until after the GDPR is implemented on 25 May. "I therefore compliment WhatsApp in signing this undertaking, which I believe will build trust amongst their many United Kingdom users".

Denham also found that WhatsApp can not and, thanks to the newly signed agreement, will not share user data with Facebook for anything other than basic data processing. Any data sharing beyond that would put the companies in violation of the ICO's Data Protection Act, which prevents companies from processing personal information without a legitimate basis for doing so. The Article 29 Working Party wrote collectively to WhatsApp to set out our concerns in October 2017. "As we've repeatedly made clear for the previous year we are not sharing data in the ways that the U.K. Information Commissioner has said she is concerned about anywhere in Europe".

The French data protection authority (CNIL) is in the process of bringing enforcement action against WhatsApp.

The second element of interest is the path ahead.

"The GDPR strengthens the rules on what constitutes "consent".

WhatsApp said in a statement given to INQ: "WhatsApp cares deeply about the privacy of our users".

Finally, in the interest of transparency I am enclosing a copy of my letter to WhatsApp dated 16 February 2018, which outlines the history and results of the investigation.



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