Facebook’s WhatsApp data-share problems could be resolved soon

11 Apr 2017

WhatsApp and Facebook logos. Image: Stefano Garau/Shutterstock

Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner says that a resolution is near in the ongoing issue of Facebook attempting to use WhatsApp user data.

Last year, Facebook revealed plans to begin sharing user data across two of its most successful services: its own, self-titled social media site and WhatsApp, a company it purchased for $19bn in 2014.

Helen Dixon, Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner and the lead EU regulator on privacy issues for Facebook (due to the Dublin location of the company’s European HQ), said today (11 April) that she hopes for a final resolution by the summer.

“I think we are in agreement with the parties – WhatsApp and Facebook – that the quality of the information provided to users could have been clearer, could have been more transparent and could have been expressed in simpler terms,” she told Reuters in an interview.

“We are working towards a solution on that.”

When that 2014 purchase went through, people feared there would be serious changes to WhatsApp’s clean, easy and fast service. However, very little changed.

That is, until late last year, when WhatsApp announced a suite of changes to its user and privacy policy terms. The major changes? Syncing up with Facebook accounts, and ads.

There was immediate concern among users, with the EU quick to issue its own strict response. On 20 December, the European Commission (EC) issued a statement of objections to Facebook over its handling of the deal with Europe.

During the review process for the $19bn deal, the EC discussed the possibility of Facebook matching its users’ accounts with WhatsApp users’ accounts, to which Facebook replied that it “would be unable to establish reliable automated matching” between the two.

That stance changed relatively quickly, though the EC’s main problem was how the company acquired consent from its users.

The EC’s ire matched that of a growing number of concerned users, but this might be calmed by Dixon’s mention of a resolution.

WhatsApp and Facebook logos. Image: Stefano Garau/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic