The social network had come under pressure from the pan-European data protection agency group, the Article 29 Working Party in October. The group of privacy watchdogs said it had serious concerns over Facebook’s use of the data, including user phone numbers. It asked the social network to pause its WhatsApp data collection.
Facebook has now halted the use of the collected data for advertising and product improvement purposes, which would enable it to link Facebook and WhatsApp accounts for users who have both.
Facebook’s European operations are based in Ireland, where it is regulated by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s office.
A spokesperson for the Irish privacy watchdog told the Irish Times: “During our engagements with Facebook, it was confirmed that, for the moment, Facebook Ireland is not proceeding to process European user data from WhatsApp for the purposes of serving ads and enhancing the Facebook service.”
The Irish data protection authority said that it was investigating Facebook’s data practices regarding the sharing of WhatsApp data.
Facebook has also seen investigations launched into its data-sharing practices by Germany, France, Italy and soon Spain. The UK’s information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said that she had concerns that customers weren’t being properly protected by Facebook.
Denham said: “I don’t think users have been given enough information about what Facebook plans to do with their information, and I don’t think WhatsApp has got valid consent from users to share the information.”
WhatsApp originally gave users of the messaging service a notice to allow them to opt out of the use of the data shared with Facebook for advertising purposes, but not to block its sharing.
That condition remains the same: Facebook will not halt the sharing of data between its main social network and WhatsApp, which is used for purposes other than advertising.
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