German regulator orders Facebook to stop processing users’ WhatsApp data
The watchdog is concerned the US company can manipulate nearly 60 million WhatsApp users’ data to influence federal elections in September
A German data protection regulator has ordered Facebook to stop processing its citizens’ personal data from WhatsApp ahead of the messaging app's May 15 deadline for users to agree to its new terms and conditions.
The Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, or HmbBfDI, viewed the Facebook-owned company’s new terms as “scattered, unclear and hard to distinguish in their European and international versions”.
“The worldwide criticism against the new terms of service should give reason to fundamentally rethink the consent mechanism once again. Without user trust, no business model based on data can be successful in the long run."
The change in policy, which led to a mass exodus of users to rival messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram, also led to increased regulatory scrutiny and other legal challenges in India.
Despite widespread criticism, Facebook said in February it will “clear up any confusion” and let users read the new updates “at their own pace”.
HmbBfDI, however, said WhatsApp’s new terms are “misleading and show considerable contradictions”.
“Even after close analysis, it is not clear what consequences approval has for users. Furthermore, consent is not freely given, since WhatsApp demands acceptance of the new provisions as a condition for the continued use of the service's functionalities,” it added.
Scandals surrounding data misuse, from Cambridge Analytica to the recently disclosed data leak that affected more than 500 million Facebook users, indicate the extent and threats of mass profiling, Mr Caspar said.
“This concerns fundamental rights and also the possibility of using profiling to influence voter decisions.”
With nearly 60 million WhatsApp users in Germany, the “danger is all the more concrete in view of the upcoming federal elections in September”, he added.
In July 2019, US regulators endorsed a $5bn privacy settlement with Facebook to resolve the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, following a long-running probe into the tech company's handling of user data.
Published: May 12, 2021 03:35 PM