Privacy Groups Ask FTC to Halt Facebook’s Acquisition of WhatsApp

Social giant's practices said to violate WhatsApp privacy policy

A group of privacy organizations are calling for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and halt Facebook's $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp.

In a complaint filed Thursday, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy contend that Facebook's practice of incorporating data from companies it has acquired would violate WhatsApp's strict privacy policy and constitute an "unfair or deceptive practice."

"Facebook routinely makes use of user information for advertising purposes and has made clear that it intends to incorporate the data of WhatsApp users into the user profiling business model," EPIC and CDD wrote, citing Instagram and other examples. According to a recent report from Forbes, WhatsApp has already explored loosening its no-advertising policies

That practice, the groups argue, would violate WhatsApp's privacy policy that it "does not collect names, emails, addresses or other contact information from its users' mobile address book or contact lists" other than mobile phone numbers.

"WhatsApp's failure to adequately disclose that this commitment to privacy was subject to reversal constitutes a deceptive act or practice in violation of … the FTC Act," the groups wrote.

Despite assurances from WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum and Facebook that the company will remain independent, many WhatsApp users remain skeptical. Fearing WhatsApp's privacy policies are about to disappear, they have protested the acquisition through social media, even a Facebook page

Facebook is under a 20-year consent decree with the FTC for its privacy policies, meaning the enforcement agency will be keeping an eye on them due to privacy violations. 

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