EU privacy watchdogs seek answers from WhatsApp and Yahoo about users' data

They told WhatsApp to stop sharing users' data with Facebook until an EU investigation is complete

European Union privacy watchdogs have warned WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum to stop sharing users' data with parent company Facebook until they investigated whether the transfers comply with EU data protection law. They also want Yahoo's Marissa Mayer to come clean about recent leaks and spying allegations.

In an open letter to Koum published Friday, an umbrella group representing the EU's national data protection authorities expressed its serious concerns at the way WhatsApp users were informed of changes to the company's terms of service and privacy policy, and questioned whether the company had their valid consent to the changes.

Privacy groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation have criticized WhatsApp for mishandling privacy changes, and others have filed complaints with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The umbrella group, known as the Article 29 Working Party (WP29) has few powers of its own, but coordinates the activities of the national DPAs, which do have the power to fine companies if they do not change their ways.

"In order to avoid the possibility that the processing of personal data by WhatsApp or the Facebook family of companies is not compliant with EU legislation, WP29 urges WhatsApp not to proceed with the sharing of users’ data until the appropriate legal protections can be assured," said the letter, signed by WP29 chairwoman Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin.

Among other things, WP29 is concerned about the effect of the policy change on people who are not WhatsApp users, but whose personal information is contained in WhatsApp users address books.

The DPAs want WhatsApp to disclose the exact categories of data it transfers, where it obtained that data, and to whom it transfers it, and for what purpose.

Also on Thursday, WP29 wrote to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer seeking information about the effect of the recently revealed 2014 data breach on EU citizens, and about reports that the company scanned its customers' email messages on behalf of U.S. intelligence agences.

"The reports are concerning to WP29 and it will be important to understand the legal basis and justification for any such surveillance activity, including an explanation of how this is compatible with EU law and protection for EU citizens," it wrote.

The data protection watchdogs have created a new subgroup to coordinate enforcement of EU data protection law. WhatsApp and Yahoo will both be on the agenda when it meets for the first time next month.

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

Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?