DPC raises concerns about Facebook integration plans

29 Jan 2019

Facebook app on mobile. Image: Mactrunk/Depositphotos

Facebook has announced plans to integrate messaging capabilities across Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, and the Irish DPC will be keeping a close eye on proceedings.

On Friday (25 January), Facebook revealed that it plans to allow for cross-messaging between its proprietary apps WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram. According to reports, the integration is a project spearheaded by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The plans are sure to have some obstacles ahead, as many regulators begin to examine the ins and outs of such a major infrastructural change. The Data Protection Commission (DPC) in Ireland yesterday (28 January) issued a statement saying that while it is aware the project is in its infancy, it has still requested an urgent briefing on what exactly is being proposed.

DPC will scrutinise the plans

The DPC said: “The Irish DPC will be very closely scrutinising Facebook’s plans as they develop, particularly insofar as they involve the sharing and merging of personal data between different Facebook companies.”

It added that previous data-sharing proposals between Facebook companies have given rise to “significant data protection concerns”, noting that the office would be “seeking early assurances that all such concerns will be fully taken into account by Facebook in further developing this proposal”. The body also said that the proposed integration must be capable of meeting all GDPR requirements for it to be permitted within the EU.

According to The Times, Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon met with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg last week to discuss the company’s need to change how it treats user privacy in a broader sense. In the meeting, which took place prior to the integration announcement, the need for significant change in how user privacy is approached was discussed.

Meanwhile, the Irish Supreme Court announced on 23 January that it would rule on the social media firm’s appeal regarding the referral of questions around EU-US data transfer channels to the Court of Justice of the EU at a later date. The appeal concerns proceedings given by the DPC arising from complaints by Austrian privacy lawyer and campaigner Max Schrems. According to The Irish Times, Chief Justice Frank Clarke said the court would now consider next steps and inform those involved.

Facebook app on mobile. Image: Mactrunk/Depositphotos

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects