Germany orders Facebook to stop collecting citizen’s WhatsApp data

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WhatsApp’s parent company, Facebook, is hungry for your data. To an almost creepy extent; if an ex-romantic partner started looking for all the info Zuckerberg has on you, they’d likely be arrested.

It’s with this in mind that Hamburg’s privacy authority has thrown down the gauntlet and ordered the social media platform to cease collecting German users’ WhatsApp data. This comes after Facebook attempted to make users agree to its updated terms and services that would see plenty of information harvested off of WhatsApp, something the Germans have decided is illegal.

Headed up by Johannes Caspar, Germany has issued a three-month emergency ban on Facebook which prohibits the company from harvesting WhatsApp within the country. An appeal is currently being made to the European Union for the ban to cover more countries still in the gang (sorry, Britain). According to Bloomberg, the official reason behind the Germany ban is that the new terms WhatsApp is pushing are “intransparent, inconsistent and overly broad.”

Of course, Facebook’s WhatsApp division is against the ban. Obviously. WhatsApp has called the issues raised by Caspar, “wrong” and insists they are, “based on a fundamental misunderstanding”. It has also stated that this ban will not stop the rollout of the new terms of service.

Germany setting the standard

WhatsApp has already amended how the users who haven’t agreed to the new terms and conditions will be affected: They were initially meant to be locked out of the app entirely but now it sounds like features within the app will be progressively killed making it almost unusable. Clearly, that wasn’t enough to satisfy Germany.

Here in South Africa, the National Information Regulator has similarly stated that it finds WhatsApp’s updated terms distasteful. “WhatsApp cannot, without obtaining prior authorisation from the IR, process any contact information of its users for a purpose other than the one for which the number was specifically intended at collection, with the aim of linking that information jointly with information processed by other Facebook companies,” said the regulator back in March. Not as severe as Germany but getting there.

When asked about the South African Information Regulator’s claims, a WhatsApp spokesperson told Stuff, “We are reviewing a letter from the Information Regulator in South Africa, which relates to our privacy policy. To be clear, this update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook and does not impact the privacy of your messages with friends or family wherever they are in the world. WhatsApp does not share your contacts with Facebook and that policy applies to users everywhere, including in South Africa. We remain fully committed to delivering secure and private communications for everyone.”

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I completed a Masters Degree just so someone might take my opinions seriously one day. Also writes about video games over at Critical Hit.

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