The WhatsApp agreement to stop sharing data with Facebook

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The WhatsApp agreement to stop sharing data with Facebook was hailed as a success for data protection rights when the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) investigated issues over consent for the sharing of data between the two platforms.

WhatsApp signed an undertaking (a formal agreement / promise) to confirm they would stop sharing data with Facebook until they could do so in compliance with this month’s GDPR changes.

Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, but a move like that does not automatically allow for consent to share data.

The undertaking and investigation by the ICO has been hailed as a “win for the data protection of UK consumers”. The ICO’s investigation into whether proper consent had been obtained to allow for users’ data to be shared between WhatsApp and Facebook resulted in the following findings, according to sources from the ICO<:

  • WhatsApp did not identify a lawful basis of processing the sharing of personal data
  • WhatsApp failed to provide adequate “fair processing information” to users in relation to the sharing of personal data
  • In relation to existing users, sharing would involve the processing of personal data for a purpose that is incompatible with the purpose for which such data was obtained
  • Where data had been shared, they would have been in contravention of the first and second data protection principles of the Data Protection Act

The ICO has confirmed that WhatsApp shall no longer share personal data with the Facebook arm until they can satisfy the requirements of the new laws coming into force in the next few weeks. We expect there may be a lot more of these sorts of investigations when the new GDPR changes come into force as well. All organisations must ensure they adhere to the new regulations, or face potentially huge fines for failing to comply with the law.

You can find a copy of the undertaking WhatsApp signed here.

IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.

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