UK regulator to write to WhatsApp over Facebook data sharing

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The UK’s data regulator is writing to WhatsApp to call for that the chat app does now not hand person data to Facebook, as tens of millions international proceed to join possible choices comparable to Signal and Telegram to keep away from coming near near adjustments to its phrases of provider.

Elizabeth Denham, the tips commissioner, advised a parliamentary committee that during 2021, WhatsApp had dedicated now not to hand any person knowledge over to Facebook till it would turn out that doing so revered GDPR.

But, she stated, that settlement was once enforced through the Irish data coverage authority till the Brexit transition length ended on 1 January. Now that Britain is totally out of doors the EU, making sure that the ones guarantees are being stored falls to the (*8*) (*7*)’s Office.

“The alternate within the phrases of provider, and the requirement of customers to percentage knowledge with Facebook, does now not follow to UK customers or to customers within the EU,” Denham advised the virtual, tradition, media and recreation sub-committee on on-line harms and disinformation, “and that’s as a result of in 2021 my place of work negotiated with WhatsApp in order that they agreed now not to percentage person knowledge and make contact with knowledge till they may display that they complied with the (*5*)GDPR.”

Asked through the committee chair whether or not there was once any longer fresh settlement than the 2021 one, then again, Denham stated there was once now not. “Up till 1 January, it was once the Irish data coverage authority’s activity to oversee the task of WhatsApp. As lengthy as we had been within the transition length, the one-stop-shop supposed it was once my Irish colleague who was once answerable for WhatsApp. That’s modified now.”

The knowledge commissioner additionally printed that she makes use of Signal, a privacy-focused competitor to WhatsApp, for her non-public messaging, and does now not have an account with both Facebook or WhatsApp.

“What’s truly attention-grabbing about WhatsApp’s announcement on its ongoing sharing with Facebook is what number of customers voted with their digital toes and left the platform to take in club with Telegram or Signal,” she added.

“Users be expecting firms to care for their agree with and now not to unexpectedly alternate the contract that they have got with the customers, and I feel it’s an instance of customers worrying concerning the trustworthiness and the sustainability of the guarantees made to customers.”

The person exodus from WhatsApp started in early July, when the corporate introduced plans to enforce a brand new privateness coverage on 8 February. Those plans, that have now been behind schedule to early summer season, led to really extensive panic a few of the app’s customers. Some of the worry was once round adjustments that explicitly spelled out, for the primary time, the present data-sharing preparations between WhatsApp and Facebook out of doors the “European area”, which contains the EU and UK.

Others had been involved through incorrect information, satirically unfold on WhatsApp itself, that the brand new phrases of provider would permit Facebook to learn person messages. That isn’t the case – the end-to-end encryption implemented through WhatsApp prevents Facebook from gaining access to message contents despite the fact that it desired, however the declare unfold a ways sufficient for WhatsApp to purchase promoting mentioning: “Neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can learn your messages or listen your calls.”

Signal and Telegram, the two large beneficiaries of the panic, have added tens of millions of customers each and every within the first three weeks of January. Signal, which was once now not within the best 1,000 apps in Britain at first of the 12 months, spent a number of days as essentially the most downloaded app within the nation, and has won 7.5 million customers globally.