FTC to look into WhatsApp new privacy policy

image source: techtimes.com

The promise made by CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg that WhatsApp’s privacy protection will be untouched when it acquired the app in 2014 may not be so anymore.

There was what appears to be a change of heart in the last two months after Facebook hit -1.16% in shares. It, therefore, decided to invade WhatsApp user data which includes the user’s phone numbers that have been protected in the application.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says it will look into the matter as other regulators have also been alerted of the deal. A letter sent by two privacy groups, Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy, FTC said it would “carefully review” the complaints it has gotten concerning WhatsApp change.

According to the letter, the agency is noting two major objectives – one is that Facebook’s plan to use data from WhatsApp is “unfair and deceptive”, and that the move is also a violation of terms of the agreement it made in 2012. Furthermore, it makes a mockery of WhatsApp’s promise to make use of mobile phone numbers for its operations only as well as other personal information.

This is not an assurance that the agency will have much say in what Facebook wants to do with WhatsApp. They can still go ahead with their plan to draw into the app’s more than one billion user profiles for its advertising aims.

What the FTC is looking to do is to let Facebook know they are watching their moves. The letter also indicated the agency’s custom of not confirming or denying that an investigation is underway.

Still, Facebook is raising eyebrows especially after their promise to back off from interfering with WhatsApp privacy policy made for its users. Another reason is coming from the letter by FTC in 2014 where the agency advised Facebook to make their changes clear to the consumers.

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What FTC could end up achieving will be to get Facebook to notify its users of this change especially when they open the WhatsApp app. The user will be made to agree to the app’s new terms of use if the user is to continue using the app. However, there will be an option available in the “learn more” link where the user can choose to opt out of most of the data sharing options.

Even with this move by WhatsApp, it may still not be enough to avoid FTC scrutiny. WhatsApp does not intend to hide the fact that it is making changes to its 2014 agreement. They are of the opinion that if a user is not comfortable with app anymore, the user can find another messaging app to use.

However, FTC may be forced to look into Facebook’s strategy to give people option to opt out on a different screen instead of the Terms of Agreement page.