Facebook Halts WhatsApp Data Use in U.K. Following Privacy Probe

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Facebook has decided to halt its decision to collect data from WhatsApp users in the United Kingdom following a privacy probe from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). This isn’t a permanent move from the social network, but it’s something.

WhatsApp confirmed plans to begin sharing user data with Facebook, its owner, back in August. Lots of fans expressed concerns with this, with many unhappy that Facebook is collecting things like phone numbers, online statuses, profile names, and even photos.

In Europe, privacy watchdogs have voiced their concerns on the policy, while the ICO started a prove into the move eight weeks ago.

“I had concerns that consumers weren’t being properly protected, and it’s fair to say the enquiries my team have made haven’t changed that view,” explains Elizabeth Denham, the U.K.’s Information Commissioner.

“I don’t think users have been given enough information about what Facebook plans to do with their information, and I don’t think WhatsApp has got valid consent from users to share the information.”

“I also believe users should be given ongoing control over how their information is used, not just a 30 day window.”

Facebook has now agreed to halt its data collecting from WhatsApp users in the U.K. while the probe continues. Meanwhile, the ICO has asked the social network to sign an “undertaking” that explicitly lays out how it will collect and use WhatsApp data.

The ICO also wants Facebook to give users complete and ongoing control over which data is shared, so that they have the ability to opt out altogether should they wish to.

“If Facebook starts using the data without valid consent, it may face enforcement action from my office,” Denham warns.

Facebook obviously won’t give up on this; it will be working to find a way around any restrictions imposed by the ICO. But either way, this is good news for WhatsApp users in Europe who should end up with more control over their data in the end.

Sadly, it’s unlikely this change will affect WhatsApp users in other countries, many of which aren’t as strict as Europe when it comes to privacy.

[via Engadget]