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9/11/17 at 01:03 AM 0 Comments

What You Should Know About Facebook's WhatsApp EU Privacy Challenges

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The European Union has very tricky privacy laws. Many companies have been fined in the EU for violation of these laws and others are failing to adhere to the high standards. Well, WhatsApp is one of these companies. The messaging app had already received the first warning from the EU due to its “deficient” privacy practices under EU laws.

WhatsApp has been warned again for a second time. Data regulators in the EU sent a letter to the app’s CEO in October warning that the consent mechanism to share data that WhatsApp was using for EU users was “seriously deficient.” WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world. The application was acquired by Facebook in 2014 and two years later it issued an updated privacy policy for its users.

The updated policy allowed WhatsApp to share personal data collected through the app with Facebook. The changes were officially announced and users were given 30 days to consent or opt out. However, the EU data regulators feel that the 30 day period was not enough for users to make an informed decision.

The privacy practices applied by Facebook and other US-based companies have consistently been questioned by EU data regulators. Although you can still find the person you are looking for on the platforms, there are many issues at hand. Some of the key issues raised include online tracking of users without their consent. The EU has also taken issue with the use of personal data for advertising.

However, at the moment, the big issue is related to how internet users give consent to share their data. Consent is a concept entrenched within privacy laws in the region. In its conceptualization of the term, the EU clearly states that consent must be freely given, unambiguous, informed and specific. Additionally, the law also says that consent must be demonstrated, intelligible, clearly expressed using simple language, and most importantly, it must be capable of being withdrawn.

In its assessment of the updated WhatsApp privacy policy, data regulators in the EU found that its user consent was not sufficiently unambiguous, freely given, informed and specific. The regulator said that this finding was based on a number of important reasons. To start with, users are not properly and appropriately informed of the intended collection and use of their personal data. WhatsApp also requested blanket consent. It failed to demonstrate the specific pieces of data that it will collect and how they will be used.

Data regulators in the EU also found the idea of imposing a “take it or leave it” consent was not consistent with regulations in the region. And worse of all, there is no specific process through which consent can be withdrawn.

EU is expected to issue a new directive on its privacy laws. The directive is looking to tighten compliance. Companies like Facebook may find themselves paying hefty noncompliance fines if they don’t do more to adhere to EU privacy standards in the near future. Facebook has been fined $1.4 million so far.

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