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

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

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.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?