Last year, WhatsApp announced to users that it would be sharing phone number information with its parent company, Facebook. At the time of this announcement, many European watchdogs argued that this violated various Internet and app privacy laws.
It was requested by various European watchdogs that WhatsApp pause all data sharing until further legal research could be completed (so that the company did not violate any EU privacy protection laws).
WhatsApp now shares various bits of user information with Facebook. The problem is (according to the various EU watchdogs) that users did not consent to this information sharing when they originally signed up to use the WhatsApp service. Therefore, whether or not the updated consent that users now agreed to is in question.
Further, WhatsApp has not said specifically what types of information (other than phone numbers) are being shared with Facebook. Also, the company has not noted the purpose of this sharing with Facebook. This is not the first time that Facebook has had a brush with the many EU watchdogs.
The major problem here is that the fines that the EU watchdogs can dole out to a company like Facebook are almost laughable when compared to the revenue that a company like Facebook brings in. Today, those same EU watchdogs have also sent a letter to Yahoo concerning the recent email privacy breach that has happened - Yahoo, as it was recently discovered, had been scanning user emails at random for various private details.
EU watchdogs that are part of the stance against Facebook, WhatsApp, and Yahoo will be meeting in November in order to determine whether or not EU citizen privacy rights were breached with all or any of these companies. Unfortunately for these watchdogs, there’s not much that can be done in the face of major US tech companies like Facebook and Yahoo.
However, not all is lost where citizens are concerned. Many EU residents have caught wind of the recent issues with Facebook, WhatsApp and Yahoo, which has lead these residents to question whether or not the companies have user privacy at heart - or if information will continue to be gathered and shared.
The bothersome bit, to many EU residents, is that these companies have not said specifically why these details are divulged. For now, Facebook, Yahoo, and WhatsApp will continue to operate as usual within the EU, but watchdogs and users are now wary.
The US Side of Things
There are some watchdogs in the US and other parts of North America that are wary of companies like Facebook and WhatsApp sharing user information. However, these watchdogs do not have quite the same amount of pull as their EU counterparts. Users in the US also seem less concerned about privacy sharing that those in Europe.