FTC implores WhatsApp to keep its promises on privacy in Facebook deal

The FTC opened the way for Facebook to complete its WhatsApp acquisition, but urged caution in how they deal with user data

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Thursday cleared a path for Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp to proceed, though it called on both companies to be mindful of their data collection policies.

The agency sent a letter to both companies, urging them to proceed with caution in how they deal with users' data, given Facebook's pending acquisition of WhatsApp. The letter comes following a request by privacy groups that the FTC investigate the deal.

The deal, announced in February, has raised concerns for the FTC, partly because both companies collect users' data, but have different policies governing how data is used.

"WhatsApp has made a number of promises about the limited nature of the data it collects, maintains, and shares with third parties -- promises that exceed the protections currently promised to Facebook users," said Jessica Rich, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC, in the letter.

Regardless of the acquisition, Rich said, "WhatsApp must continue to honor these promises to consumers."

If the acquisition is completed and WhatsApp fails to honor its promises, both WhatsApp and Facebook could be in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, and potentially a previous FTC order against Facebook on privacy, she said.

Facebook is pleased that the FTC completed its review and cleared its acquisition of WhatsApp, a company spokeswoman said by email. "Naturally, both companies will continue to comply with all applicable laws after the transaction closes," she said.

WhatsApp did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

WhatsApp in its terms of service says it does not collect names, addresses or email addresses, just mobile phone numbers. Also, the company says it does not collect location data, but users may voluntarily share their location with other users.

"We do not use your mobile phone number or other personally identifiable information to send commercial or marketing messages without your consent," except as part of a specific program in which people may opt in or out, the terms say.

Following Facebook's announcement that it planned to acquire WhatsApp, both companies indicated that promises made in WhatsApp's privacy policy would be honored, the FTC's letter acknowledged.

But if Facebook were to violate any of WhatsApp's promises should the acquisition be completed, it would constitute a deceptive or unfair practice under the FTC Act, Rich said. If Facebook were to use any of WhatsApp's data in a way that's inconsistent with WhatsApp's terms, it would need the consent of users first, and have to provide them with an opportunity to opt out, she said.

The FTC has brought cases against companies such as Genelink and Twitter for not keeping promises about privacy, constituting a deceptive practice under Section 5 of the FTC Act.

The FTC will monitor the practices of Facebook and WhatsApp, Rich said.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags social mediaprivacymobileinternetFacebooksearch enginessocial networkingmobile applicationsInternet-based applications and servicesMobile OSesWhatsApp

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?