Facebook dodges EU ban on WhatsApp data as scrutiny intensifies
Facebook Inc has escaped a possible European Union ban on its use of WhatsApp customer data, but faces an investigation into new terms and services that have sparked outrage from consumer rights activists.
The European Data Protection Board, a panel of EU authorities, said on Thursday that Facebook’s WhatsApp data practices should be reviewed “as a matter of priority” by the Irish privacy watchdog, its main regulator in the region.
“Given the high probability of infringements, in particular for the purposes of the safety, security and integrity of WhatsApp” and other units of Facebook, “the EDPS considered that this case requires rapid further investigations “the EU body said in a statement.
WhatsApp announced the policy changes in January, but was forced to delay its introduction until May, due to confusion and user feedback about what data the messaging service collects and how it shares that information. with the Facebook parent.
Earlier this week, consumer rights activists filed a lawsuit against WhatsApp for its allegedly “aggressive” deployment of a policy that remains “opaque”.
In Thursday’s decision, the EDPS did not impose an EU-wide provisional ban on access to data, as requested by the Hamburg Data Protection Commissioner.
The German authority in May imposed a three-month ban order on Facebook to prevent it from collecting data from German users of its WhatsApp unit, and called on EU regulators to make a decision on the block scale.
This decision is currently stuck in an EU dispute settlement process, failing to gain the full backing of all European data watchdogs.
The Irish authority said it would “take into consideration any appropriate regulatory follow-up when identifying issues discussed in the EDPB decision that have yet to be addressed” in the more advanced WhatsApp investigation. He added that he was also still working on “a separate complaint-based investigation” on “the legal basis on which WhatsApp relies for processing” and that “the investigation is also at an advanced stage.”
Under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, authorities have unprecedented powers to impose fines on businesses of up to 4% of their annual sales. The rules also put in place a system that puts watchdogs based in a company’s chosen European hub with the responsibility of overseeing them, which has created tensions as the Irish office grapples with a mountain of probes and that colleagues elsewhere accuse him of being too slow.
The Irish Data Protection Commission has opened at least 28 investigations into the Silicon Valley giants, including Apple Inc and Google – all of which have their European base in Ireland. The Facebook accounts of nine of these surveys and more are ongoing in its WhatsApp and Instagram businesses.
“We remain fully committed to providing secure and private communications for everyone and will work with the Irish Data Protection Commission as the main regulator in the region to fully address the issues raised by the EDPB,” WhatsApp said .
Johannes Caspar, until recently Hamburg’s Data Protection Commissioner, who called for an EU-wide decision, said in an email that he regretted the EDPS ‘”lack of courage” not to see any urgency in this matter despite the “considerable doubts” he said had about the treatment of Facebook’s data. – Bloomberg