Back when Facebook paid a ludicrous amount of money for WhatsApp back in 2014 people started worrying about whether the messaging app's privacy stance would die off. Facebook promised that it wouldn't, but then changed its mind two years later. Now, after being told that this was against the law by various governments - including the UK, France, Germany, and EU - the Information Commissioner's office has made a ruling on the situation.
After an investigation the ICO has ruled conclusively that no, WhatsApp is not allowed to share user data with Facebook, but there isn't any evidence it has done. Commissioner Elizabeth Denham explained:
My investigation found:
- WhatsApp has not identified a lawful basis of processing for any such sharing of personal data
- WhatsApp has failed to provide adequate fair processing information to users in relation to any such sharing of personal data;
- In relation to existing users, such sharing would involve the processing of personal data for a purpose that is incompatible with the purpose for which such data was obtained;
- I found that if they had shared the data, they would have been in contravention of the first and second data protection principles of the Data Protection Act.
Because there's no evidence WhatsApp had been sharing data with Facebook, the ICO confirmed it won't be handing out any fines. So if you are a WhatsApp users, and don't want Facebook to add it to the long list of ways it can hoard information about you, you needn't worry. For now anyway.
Facebook and WhatsApp have both confirmed that data sharing will begin once it can be done in a way that complies with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect this May. WhatsApp has agreed to an undertaking of that effect, which can be read here. Similarly you can read the Information Commissioner's full report here. [9to5Mac]