Privacy Watchdogs Want Answers From Facebook

Photo of author
Written By Hossein Soltani

Data protection watchdogs suspect the proposed merger of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram is more about advertising than streamlining systems.

European Union regulators have summoned Facebook executives to explain how they believe the merger will not breach privacy and data protection laws.

Facebook wants to merge the back-end of the three apps while leaving the front ends to maintain their own branding and personality.

But the watchdogs feel Facebook is just trying to target WhatsApp users on other applications by profiling their usage and personal data in WhatsApp.

The EU have confronted Facebook about this issue in the past and are set to do so again.

Data protection concerns

The Irish Data Protection Commission said: “While we understand that Facebook’s proposal to integrate the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram platforms is at a very early conceptual stage of development, the Irish DPC has asked Facebook Ireland for an urgent briefing on what is being proposed.

“The Irish DPC will be very closely scrutinising Facebook’s plans as they develop, particularly insofar as they involve the sharing and merging of personal data between different Facebook companies.

“Previous proposals to share data between Facebook companies have given rise to significant data protection concerns and the Irish DPC will be seeking early assurances that all such concerns will be fully taken into account by Facebook in further developing this proposal.”

The Irish DPC is taking the lead as Facebook in Europe is headquartered in Dublin.

Advertising gold

Besides the advertising gold hidden in the merger, Facebook is out to trounce the opposition by building the social media messaging app of choice for billions of users.

Around 2.8 billion people use WhatsApp and Messenger. No other app comes anywhere near that mark.

In a bid to satisfy critics, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has ordered developers to encrypt the new service – which adds a layer of security to the current apps.

Zuckerberg recently wrote in the Wall St Journal: “People consistently tell us that if they’re going to see ads, they want them to be relevant.

“The vast majority agreed to allow Facebook to collect their data because they prefer more relevant ads and offering data makes them more relevant.”