WhatsApp, Facebook new data sharing plan to be investigated

WhatsApp recently revealed a deal that shows that it will start sharing its stored mobile numbers and last seen information with its parent company Facebook and it seems that the UK’s data protection organization does not believe the venture and it has announced that it will investigate the arrangement.

New UK information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham announced that the watchdog intended to investigate the situation. Denham was recently announced to the position. She also noted that they knew about the changes, and although organizations did not really need to inform the Commission about changes in the company, they still needed to follow the rules with their changed positions. Denham also said that the investigation would look into whether the two companies were being sincere and transparent with how their data would be shared and used.

She also added that the changes being made by Facebook and WhatsApp potentially affected a lot of people. Other people are of the notion that they will get better service and improvements from both companies, and others might be concerned about the lack of control. She said that the Commission’s role in this situation was to make everything clear by pulling the curtain and showing people how their data was being used by these companies. It was to protect the people by showing that the law was clearly being followed.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said that they were looking forward to answering questions from the Commission about the new changes in order for everyone to gain light into the new changes.

Scott Vernick, partner and head of data security and privacy practice at US law firm Fox Rothschild LLP, said that regulators and other such organizations wanted to know and ensure that the changes made and the language in the new terms and conditions would accurately convey the message. He said that the question ok each and every regulators mind at the moment is whether the new changes rules, the way you could opt in or out of them is clearly expressed to the common user. The question was not about the disclosure of the new changes, which they are clearly making, he said, but was about whether or not it was understandable to the average user.

WhatsApp is indicating to users about the option to opt out of sharing data with their Facebook accounts is as follows; “Share my WhatsApp account information with Facebook to improve my Facebook ads and products experiences. Your chats and phone number will not be shared onto Facebook regardless of this setting.”


If someone reads that message they might think that their number is not going to be shared with Facebook when they are going to share it nonetheless. Vernick also noted that another area which would give WhatsApp and Facebook a problem is that when they first combined they gave assurances that there was not going to be any data sharing between themselves to regulators, and with the new change, they might seem like they are reneging from that.

Another potential issue would be the issue of privacy that WhatsApp clearly ran on before and won it so many admirers. Now that they are finally giving in to their parent company and offering the numbers, it might bring up trust issues and concern from their huge fanbase. Fans of the messaging service might be tempted to move onto other security savvy services. And it does not look like there is a shortage of them on the App Store. Telegram, one of the messaging services which provides end to end encryption, said that they had seen a 20 to 40 percent surge in their app downloads in the 24 hours after the announcement of the WhatsApp, Facebook news.