WhatsApp and Facebook to share users’ data outside Europe and UK

Facebook & WhatsApp
WhatsApp and Facebook to share users' data outside Europe and UK

WhatsApp forces people to choose to share information with Facebook if they wish to continue using the programme.

In a pop-up note, the company warns consumers that they “need to accept these updates to continue using WhatsApp”-or to remove their accounts.

Yet Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, said that European and UK users will not see the same improvements in data sharing, but they would need to consider new terms.

Some also accepted the exemption as a win for EU privacy regulators.

The deadline for approving the adjustment in both regions is 8 February, following which “you’ll need to accept these updates to continue using WhatsApp” the company said in a pop-up message to users.

A part of the International Privacy Policy has been deleted, which has traditionally required users to opt out of sharing sensitive information with Facebook for the first 30 days since the reforms have taken effect.

Instead, the new warning directs users to the “if you would prefer to delete your account” web support centre.

The move also caused some people online-including Tesla and Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX-to call users to turn to other more privacy-focused messaging platforms such as Signal and Telegram.

Europe’s exemption

There was initial uncertainty as to how much increased data exchange will impact EU and UK users.

The “key updates” overview of significant changes shows the convergence of Facebook in the international copy-but does not do so in the European edition of the same page.

Later on Thursday, Facebook released a statement claiming that there will be no improvement in the ‘European region’-which includes the EU, the EEA and the UK post-Brexit region.

“For the avoidance of any doubt, it is still the case that WhatsApp does not share European region WhatsApp user data with Facebook for the purpose of Facebook using this data to improve its products or advertisements,” said the spokesperson.

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However, the latest edition of the privacy policy for European users explicitly specifies that data can be exchanged with other Facebook entities for the purpose of showing personalised advertising and offerings, making suggestions for content, and “help” to complete transactions, among other purposes.

Facebook states that it would not use WhatsApp information for this kind of purpose in Europe as a result of agreements with European data protection authorities.

Some also interpreted this trend as a success for the stricter European rules on privacy introduced in recent years.

See the initial tweet on Twitter

Dutch MEP Paul Tang tweeted, “Facebook allows itself access to all of our WhatsApp-data because… you live in the EU.

“That is why data protection matters.”

What’s been collected elsewhere?

The details of the kind of data collected by WhatsApp-and now shared with Facebook with non-Europeans-are buried in the formal documentation forming the terms and the privacy policy.

In a FAQ update, WhatsApp confirmed that it shares a wide range of user information with other Facebook firms, including:

  • Phone number and other registration information provided (such as name)
  • Details on your phone, like make, model, and mobile company
  • Your IP address that shows the location of your internet connection
  • Any payments and financial transactions made through WhatsApp

However, it also confirmed that it could exchange all details protected by its privacy policy-which could include addresses, status changes, when people use WhatsApp and for how long, and unique identification numbers for users’ phones.

Facebook did not respond to a request for clarification as to why it made abrupt changes.