WhatsApp stopped from sharing personal data with Facebook

Written by Mark Evans

The Information Commissioner has completed its investigation, started in August 2016, into whether WhatsApp could legally share users’ data with its owner Facebook. As it stands the Commissioner is not satisfied that there is any lawful basis of processing for any such sharing of personal data and WhatsApp has failed to provide adequate fair processing information to users in relation to any such sharing.

Indeed the conclusion is that sharing would be incompatible with the purpose for which such data was obtained, and had data been shared they would have been in contravention of the first and second data protection principles of the Data Protection Act.

As a result WhatsApp has now signed an undertaking not to share personal data with Facebook until they can do so in compliance with the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force in May.

There are clear commercial reasons why the mass of data within WhatsApp would be useful in create ‘fuller’ profiles of users and allowing more precise advertising targeting, but the key issue is that the data was not collected for this purpose. The UK’s decision echoes those made in some other EU countries, whilst judge is pending in the remainder.