UK watchdog to work with Irish Data Protection Commissioner over WhatsApp concerns

Facebook has agreed to hold off collecting data from people who use WhatsApp in the UK

UK watchdog to work with Irish Data Protection Commissioner over WhatsApp concerns

Picture by Jonathan Brady PA Wire/PA Images

The UK's Information Commissioner has said she will work closely with Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner in efforts to address concerns with WhatsApp's new privacy policy.

It comes as Facebook has agreed to hold off collecting data from people who use WhatsApp in the UK.

Changes to the messaging service's policy were announced in August, which allowed for customer information to be shared with Facebook unless the customer opted out.

The changes proved controversial, with some critics suggested it represented a backtracking after earlier pledges that the privacy policy would not change after the app was acquired by Facebook in 2014.

It also led to a warning from European privacy watchdogs. The Data Protection Commissioner here also confirmed it is scrutinising the data sharing.

Facebook is regulated by the Irish watchdog as its EU headquarters is located here.

Today, the British information watchdog said she does not think users know enough about what will happen to their information.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham wrote in a blog post: "It’s important that we have control over our personal information, even if services don’t charge us a fee. We might agree to a company using our information in a certain way in return for us getting a service for free, but if that information is then exploited more than agreed, for a purpose we don’t like, then we’re entitled to be concerned.

"We’ve set out the law clearly to Facebook, and we’re pleased that they’ve agreed to pause using data from UK WhatsApp users for advertisements or product improvement purposes," she explained.

She notes that "I don’t think WhatsApp has got valid consent from users to share the information. I also believe users should be given ongoing control over how their information is used, not just a 30 day window."

She adds that Facebook and WhatsApp have not agreed with her office that over the belief that "consumers deserve a greater level of information and protection".

She also points out: "We’ll keep pushing on this, both from our office and alongside other data protection authorities across Europe, notably the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, where Facebook’s EU headquarters are based."