FTC implores WhatsApp to keep its promises on privacy in Facebook deal

The FTC opened the way for Facebook to complete its WhatsApp acquisition, but urged caution in how they deal with user data

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Thursday cleared a path for Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp to proceed, though it called on both companies to be mindful of their data collection policies.

The agency sent a letter to both companies, urging them to proceed with caution in how they deal with users' data, given Facebook's pending acquisition of WhatsApp. The letter comes following a request by privacy groups that the FTC investigate the deal.

The deal, announced in February, has raised concerns for the FTC, partly because both companies collect users' data, but have different policies governing how data is used.

"WhatsApp has made a number of promises about the limited nature of the data it collects, maintains, and shares with third parties -- promises that exceed the protections currently promised to Facebook users," said Jessica Rich, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC, in the letter.

Regardless of the acquisition, Rich said, "WhatsApp must continue to honor these promises to consumers."

If the acquisition is completed and WhatsApp fails to honor its promises, both WhatsApp and Facebook could be in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, and potentially a previous FTC order against Facebook on privacy, she said.

Facebook is pleased that the FTC completed its review and cleared its acquisition of WhatsApp, a company spokeswoman said by email. "Naturally, both companies will continue to comply with all applicable laws after the transaction closes," she said.

WhatsApp did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

WhatsApp in its terms of service says it does not collect names, addresses or email addresses, just mobile phone numbers. Also, the company says it does not collect location data, but users may voluntarily share their location with other users.

"We do not use your mobile phone number or other personally identifiable information to send commercial or marketing messages without your consent," except as part of a specific program in which people may opt in or out, the terms say.

Following Facebook's announcement that it planned to acquire WhatsApp, both companies indicated that promises made in WhatsApp's privacy policy would be honored, the FTC's letter acknowledged.

But if Facebook were to violate any of WhatsApp's promises should the acquisition be completed, it would constitute a deceptive or unfair practice under the FTC Act, Rich said. If Facebook were to use any of WhatsApp's data in a way that's inconsistent with WhatsApp's terms, it would need the consent of users first, and have to provide them with an opportunity to opt out, she said.

The FTC has brought cases against companies such as Genelink and Twitter for not keeping promises about privacy, constituting a deceptive practice under Section 5 of the FTC Act.

The FTC will monitor the practices of Facebook and WhatsApp, Rich said.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesMobile OSessocial networkingmobilesocial mediainternetsearch enginesprivacyFacebookmobile applicationsWhatsAppsecurity

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?