WhatsApp, the messaging app acquired by Facebook for $19.3 billion in February 2014, has agreed with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) not to share user data with its overbearing parent following an investigation that concluded that it would be illegal.
WhatsApp was ordered to stop sharing personal data with Facebook in November 2016 after the ICO, which opened an investigation into the matter in August that year, said it had concerns that Facebook wasn't being "fully transparent" over its WhatsApp data filching.
The ICO announced today that it has completed its investigation into whether WhatsApp was legally entitled to share user data with Facebook in the manner the firm was considering.
"WhatsApp has not identified a lawful basis of processing for any such sharing of personal data", information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said, adding that "if they had shared the data, they would have been in contravention of the first and second data protection principles of the Data Protection Act."
The ICO said WhatsApp had "failed to provide adequate fair processing information to users in relation to any such sharing of personal data", adding that the sharing of such data "would involve the processing of personal data for a purpose that is incompatible with the purpose for which such data was obtained".
Signing an undertaking is not the end of story and I will closely monitor WhatsApp's adherence to it
WhatsApp has agreed to sign an undertaking not to share personal data with Facebook (unless this data related to support services) until they can do so in compliance with the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force in May this year.
"I reached the conclusion that an undertaking was the most effective regulatory tool for me to use, given the circumstances of the case," Denham said.
WhatsApp said in a statement given to INQ: "WhatsApp cares deeply about the privacy of our users. We collect very little data and every message is end-to-end encrypted. As we've repeatedly made clear for the last year we are not sharing data in the ways that the UK Information Commissioner has said she is concerned about anywhere in Europe."
As WhatsApp has agreed not to share data with Facebook, for now at least, the firm has not incurred a financial penalty.
"I compliment WhatsApp in signing this undertaking, which I believe will build trust amongst their many UK users," added Denham."I would also like to stress that signing an undertaking is not the end of story and I will closely monitor WhatsApp's adherence to it."
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