French privacy watchdog CNIL says WhatsApp data transfer to Facebook is illegal

19 December, 2017, 11:08 | Author: Patty Aguilar
  • France asks Whats App to stop sharing user data with Facebook

French data protection agency Cnil has issued a formal notice to WhatsApp, ordering the company to stop transferring the data of its users to Facebook, which it had been found to do, without their consent.

The French watchdog said today it has "decided to make this formal notice public in order to ensure the highest level of transparency on the massive data transfer from WhatsApp to Facebook Inc. and thus to alert to the need for individuals concerned to keep their data under control".

After its purchase in 2014 WhatsApp issued new terms of service notifying users that it would transfer their data to its new parent company Facebook.

"The only way to refuse the data transfer for "business intelligence" objective is to uninstall the application", the watchdog said in its notice to Whatsapp.


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After repeated criticism, Facebook also agreed to stop collecting WhatsApp user data in the UK.

Facebook had said during the acquisition process that it had no way of automatically matching its user accounts to WhatsApp users, but two years later launched a service that did exactly that, according to the EC.

The merging of WhatsApp's data with Facebook was a first step by Facebook a year ago toward monetizing the platform since the social network's Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg bought the company for about $22 billion in 2014. However, the investigations found violations of the French Data Protection Act, namely for the sharing of data for "business intelligence". "In particular, neither the users' consent nor the legitimate interest of WHATSAPP can be used as arguments in this case".

The agency also criticized WhatsApp for "insufficient" cooperation after the initial warning from the European Union privacy authorities that had said they had serious concerns over WhatsApp sharing user data when its users had only signed up to use WhatsApp, not Facebook. A similar order has been presented to WhatsApp and Germany, and in the United Kingdom the social media giant has already agreed to stop collecting data from WhatsApp users. This means there is no way WhatsApp can provide sufficient guarantees to preserve the interest or the fundamental freedoms of users since there is no mechanism whereby they can refuse while continuing to use the application.

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