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Germany calls halt to Facebook’s WhatsApp info slurp

Privacy watchdog says nein

A German privacy regulator has told Facebook to stop collecting user information from WhatsApp.

Hamburg’s Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information issued an administrative order to immediately stop the collection and storage of data from German WhatsApp users.

It also told Zuckerberg’s social media giant to delete all information it had already collected from the messaging service.

Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, said in a statement:

This administrative order protects the data of about 35 million WhatsApp users in Germany. It has to be their decision, whether they want to connect their account with Facebook. Therefore, Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance. This has not happened.

In addition, there are many millions of people whose contact details were uploaded to WhatsApp from the user's address books, although they might not even have a connection to Facebook or WhatsApp. According to Facebook, this gigantic amount of data has not yet been collected. Facebook's answer, that this has merely not been done for the time being, is cause for concern that the gravity of the data protection breach will have much a more severe impact."

Facebook altered WhatsApp terms and conditions to a default setting of sharing data. Users were given time to change their settings if they wished to but there has still been wide criticism of the move.

Facebook told Reuters it was willing to work with the regulator to resolve their concerns.

There are ongoing legal challenges in Germany and in India to oppose the move and US regulators are also examining the issue.

Facebook paid $19bn for WhatsApp two years ago. ®

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