Facebook claims Hamburg order to keep WhatsApp data separate has ‘no legitimate basis’

The company has said that the order is ‘based on a fundamental misunderstanding’ of the update

Adam Smith@adamndsmith
Friday 14 May 2021 17:29
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Facebook has said it will not comply with a German data protection agency’s request to keep data from WhatsApp and Facebook separate because it claims it has “no legitimate basis”.

The Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information sought an “immediately enforceable order”, over fears that Facebook would use the data for marketing purposes and direct advertising, as well as the existing areas of product improvement, analysis, and security.

“Up to now there has been no supervisory review of the actual processing operations between WhatsApp and Facebook that we are aware of”, Johannes Caspar, the commissioner, said last month.

“Currently, there is reason to believe that the provisions that will enable and expand the sharing of data between WhatsApp and Facebook will be unlawfully enforced due to the lack of voluntary and informed consent.”

The intervention of the data protection agency could have delayed Facebook’s update to WhatsApp’s terms and conditions, which would share specific information with its parent company. WhatsApp has said it will start restricting features of its app until users accept its terms and conditions.

The messaging company was forced to clarify that it would not be able to see the content of messages or calls, and neither could Facebook, as the data would be used for commerce features and ads that opened WhatsApp chats. Nevertheless, that sparked a backlash from users, leav­­ing many to move to other apps like Signal.

However WhatsApp has said that the order is “based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose and effect of WhatsApp’s update” and has “no legitimate basis.”

A spokesperson continued: “As the Hamburg DPA’s claims are wrong, the order will not impact the continued roll-out of the update. We remain fully committed to delivering secure and private communications for everyone.” 

While it is likely that Facebook will appeal the Hamburg procedure, the agency is also intending to raise this matter with the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) to make a decision that would cover the European Union’s 27 members.

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