Germany’s privacy watchdog ordered WhatsApp to immediately stop sharing data with parent Facebook, while an equivalent authority in Italy is digging into the same issue.
Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg commissioner for data protection and freedom of information, issued an “administrative order against the mass synchronisation of data” between the two companies, prohibiting Facebook from collecting and storing data from German WhatsApp users, of which it says there are about 35 million.
Caspar also wants WhatsApp to delete all data that has already been forwarded to its parent.
Facebook said it will appeal this order and work with Hamburg “to address their questions and resolve any concerns.”
Last month, WhatsApp said it wanted to coordinate more with Facebook to track basic metrics about how often people use its services and better fight spam and also connect phone numbers with Facebook’s systems so the social network can offer better friend suggestions and show users more relevant ads.
Facebook’s German headquarters are in Hamburg and fall under Caspar’s jurisdiction.
“After the acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook two years ago, both parties have publicly assured that data will not be shared between them. The fact that this is now happening is not only a misleading of their users and the public, but also constitutes an infringement of national data protection law,” the regulator said.
It added that Facebook does not have the consent of WhatsApp users, nor does it have a legal basis for collecting data.
The country’s Data Protection Authority wants to know the type of data that WhatsApp intends to share with Facebook, how it will acquire consent from users and what measures are being taken to make sure rights are respected under Italian law.
It is also concerned that users’ rights “to revoke their consent or object appear to only be exercisable within a limited time span from when a company notice is sent to single devices,” it said in a statement.