Data sharing between WhatsApp and Facebook

Image of hand holding smartphone with messaging app permissions screen open

Data sharing between WhatsApp and Facebook

How did it happen?

In August of this year, WhatsApp made a change to its privacy policy. The instant messaging service with over a billion users announced that it’s sharing data with its parent company, Facebook. This means that WhatsApp users’ phone numbers, contacts, and even the content of their messages, can now be linked to Facebook accounts.

Why did it happen?

Facebook claims that the data will be used for targeted advertisements, like messages sent directly to WhatsApp users from businesses. The initial change in the privacy policy allowed users a thirty-day window to opt-out of the targeted advertisements. But data would still be shared between WhatsApp and Facebook, regardless.

What can be done?

Recently, the UK’s Information Commissioner asked Facebook to pause all data transfers between itself and WhatsApp. She is concerned with how Facebook intends to use the data, that WhatsApp never established valid consent to share the data, and that an expired thirty-day window to opt-out doesn’t give users ongoing control over their data. In September, Germany ordered Facebook to stop collecting user data from WhatsApp and to delete any data that it had already received.

There hasn’t been any formal resistance to the change in WhatsApp’s privacy policy from Canadian privacy commissioners.

The Digital Tattoo has a couple of resources that may help you understand how your data is created through social media and its importance more generally. And take a look at our recent blog post, Taking Control of your Data, to find out how you can control your data on Facebook and Google.

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What do you think?

What are your thoughts on the Digital Tattoo project? Do you have any ideas about topics that we should be discussing? How about the changes to WhatsApp’s privacy policy?

Let us know in the comments below!


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