ICO ‘looking into’ data sharing concerns

The Information Commissioner is looking into changes to the way Facebook and WhatsApp handle customers’ personal data.

Sep 7, 2016
By Paul Jacques

The Information Commissioner is looking into changes to the way Facebook and WhatsApp handle customers’ personal data.

Elizabeth Denham, who was appointed in July, said the changes “will affect a lot of people”.

“Some might consider it will give them a better service, others may be concerned by the lack of control,” she said.

“Our role is to pull back the curtain on things like this, ensuring that companies are being transparent with the public about how their personal data is being shared, and protecting consumers by making sure the law is being followed.

“We’ve been informed of the changes. Organisations do not need to get prior approval from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to change their approaches, but they do need to stay within data protection laws. We are looking into this.”

Her comments follow the decision by the WhatsApp messaging service, which was bought by the social networking company Facebook in 2014 for £16 billion, to share more data with its parent company.

Facebook has said it would start using this data from the messaging app to allow advertisers to better target those users on Facebook and Instagram, in addition to allowing businesses to send messages to WhatsApp users directly.

The decision is already under scrutiny in the US and Europe over revisions to privacy policies for the free messaging service.

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