WhatsApp Purchase Challenged Over Privacy Concerns

By Tom Pritchard on at

Facebook's recent acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp took a great many people by surprise, and unsurprisingly a number of people have raised concerns about the implications the purchase will have on user privacy. This is Facebook, after all. A complaint filed with the US Federal Trade Commission has demanded that the deal be put on hold until Facebook can shed light on its plans for user data.

The complaint, coming from the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Centre for Digital Democracy, states that:

"WhatsApp built a user-base based on its commitment not to collect user data for advertising revenue.
 
Users provided detailed personal information to the company including private text to close friends. Facebook routinely makes use of user information for advertising purposes and has made clear that it intends to incorporate the data of WhatsApp users into the user profiling business model.
 
The proposed acquisition will therefore violate WhatsApp users' understanding of their exposure to online advertising and constitutes an unfair and deceptive trade practice, subject to investigation by the Federal Trade Commission."

It's hardly surprising that people have these concerns, especially given Facebook has a track record of allegedly monitoring private conversations for advertising purposes. Facebook has denied the claims, and insists that WhatsApp will be kept a completely separate company, and will "honour [WhatsApps'] commitments to privacy and security."
Despite these assurances, critics are pointing to Instagram, the privacy policies of which were overhauled after its purchase by Facebook in 2012.

The final decision is in the hands of the FTC, which will decide whether the £11 billion purchase can go ahead. Call me cynical, but I don't think any number of complaints will stop the deal from going ahead. [BBC News]