Facebook received order not to track personal data from WhatsApp in Germany

A German privacy protection agency banned Facebook from collecting data from users of its WhatsApp chat app on Tuesday, citing an update to its privacy policy that violates strict European data protection rules.

Hamburg’s data protection commissioner Johannes Caspar issued a three-month emergency order prohibiting the social network from processing personal data from WhatsApp for its own purposes.

New WhatsApp terms, under the microscope of the German authorities

“The order is intended to safeguard the rights and freedoms of the many millions of users who approve the terms of use throughout Germany,” Caspar said in a statement. “The goal is to prevent the downsides and harms associated with such a black box procedure.”

Caspar’s office said the updated terms and privacy policy allowing Facebook to access much more information about WhatsApp users were too broad and not transparent.

The German body opened an urgent procedure last month, due to concerns that WhatsApp users were forced to accept the update before May 15 or they would not be able to continue using the service, according to what was indicated by various media.

The order “is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose and effect of the WhatsApp update and therefore has no legitimate basis,” WhatsApp said in a statement, adding that because the Hamburg regulator’s claims are errors, it would not affect the deployment of the update.

WhatsApp initially tried to roll out the update earlier this year, but due to a wave of confusion and misinformation among users, the update was withdrawn; while many of its users migrated (or at least implemented in parallel) rival chat applications, such as Signal and Telegram.

Caspar warned that with 60 million users in Germany, WhatsApp could be used to influence voters in the September federal elections through Facebook ads. He said he will refer the case to the European Data Protection Commission to seek a decision from the entire European Union.

WhatsApp ruled on the ruling, denying that the update is related to any expansion of data sharing with Facebook, and emphasizing that the update is related only to messages between companies and customers.

A company spokesperson criticized that the Hamburg order “is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose and effect of the WhatsApp update and therefore has no legitimate basis.”

Facebook’s headquarters in Germany is located in Hamburg and Caspar has national jurisdiction to enforce the strict General Data Protection Regulations of the EU that fall on the aforementioned company.

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Lenny Li

I started to play with tech since middle school. Smart phones, laptops and gadgets are all about my life. Besides, I am also a big fan of Star War. May the force be with you!

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