Germany blocks Facebook from fetching data of WhatsApp users

Germany-based data protection authorities has blocked social media giant Facebook from collecting data of WhatsApp users. According to sources, the move is being taken due to privacy concerns.

Commenting on the development, Hamburg’s Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information Johannes Caspar revealed that Facebook has in fact agreed not to share any data when they acquired WhatsApp in 2014. He said that Facebook would be required to delete any data, which they fetched from WhatsApp in Germany.

Whatsapp users should decide Facebook sharing

Caspar also said that user should decide whether they want to connect their account with Facebook. Moreover, the Facebook has to prompt for the permission of users in advance.

In August, WhatsApp announced that it would start sharing data with Facebook. This is to enable improved targeted advertising and also to fight spam on the platform. As of writing this, WhatsApp users must opt out of sending information to Facebook by selecting the appropriate option from the settings section on their smartphone.

Germany acts to protect privacy of 35 million WhatsApp users

Meanwhile, Caspar revealed that he has swiftly acted to protect the privacy of 35 million WhatsApp users in Germany. This only accounts to a fraction of one billion users worldwide. He also said that there is a possibility of sharing contacts saved inside the address books with Facebook as part of the data-sharing arrangement.

As far as Germany is concerned, it is easy to impose restrictions since the activities of Facebook in German-speaking regions are managed through its subsidiary office in Hamburg. Hence, the company is under the jurisdiction of the regulator in the northern port city.

Facebook ready to cooperate with German authorities

When contacted, Facebook said that the company and the team are ready to cooperate with the German authorities. Responding to media, a Facebook spokeswoman said that the company truly compiles with EU data protection law. They are working closely with the Hamburg DPA to resolve disputes and find proper solutions.

To recall, WhasApp introduced end-to-end encryption by default, which prohibits messages from being viewed by any person other than the sender and recipient. The announcement of WhatsApp to share data with Facebook came just four months after that.

In September, the European Commission suggested enhanced privacy and security requirements for WhatsApp and Skype. They also stated that the services should be regulated like traditional telecom service providers.