Groups ask US FTC to investigate Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp

The proposed deal raises concerns about WhatsApp users' privacy, two groups say

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission should investigate Facebook's proposed US$19 billion acquisition of mobile messaging app WhatsApp -- and possibly block it -- because of the potential impact on users' privacy, two privacy groups said in a complaint filed Thursday.

While WhatsApp has demonstrated a "strong commitment to user privacy," Facebook's current messaging service collects and stores "virtually all available user data," the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy wrote in their complaint.

WhatsApp has promised users that it would not retain or sell personal information, and many users selected the service based on its privacy protections, but Facebook has collected user data from companies it acquires.

"WhatsApp users rely on WhatsApp to maintain the privacy of their communications," Julia Horwitz, EPIC's consumer protection counsel, said by email. "Our complaint urges the FTC to investigate whether there are sufficient privacy protections in place to continue to shield the data of WhatsApp users from access by Facebook -- which (for many users) was the very feature that made WhatsApp so appealing in the first place."

If Facebook begins collecting WhatsApp user data, that would be a deceptive business practice because of WhatsApp's former privacy promises, the groups said. "WhatsApp's failure to adequately disclose that this commitment to privacy was subject to reversal conditions" would violate FTC rules, the groups wrote.

If the FTC does not block Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp, it should "insulate" the app's users from Facebook data collection, the groups said.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the acquisition won't change WhatsApp's privacy practices. "Facebook's goal is to bring more connectivity and utility to the world by delivering core internet services efficiently and affordably -- this partnership will help make that happen," she said by email. "As we have said repeatedly, WhatsApp will operate as a separate company and will honor its commitments to privacy and security."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Julia HorwitzInternet-based applications and servicesinstant messagingU.S. Federal Trade Commissionregulationsocial networkingCenter for Digital DemocracymobileElectronic Privacy Information CenterinternetprivacyFacebookmobile applicationsWhatsAppsecuritygovernment

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

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

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.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?