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Privacy Groups Challenge Facebook's Purchase Of WhatsApp

12 Mar, 2014 By: Doug McPherson

WASHINGTON – Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp has hit a legal snag. In a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last week, two privacy groups say the deal will violate WhatsApp users’ understanding of their exposure to online advertising.

The Center for Digital Democracy and Electronic Privacy Information Center say in their complaint that “WhatsApp built a user base based on its commitment not to collect user data for advertising revenue” – and that Facebook routinely does exactly that.

Both groups say WhatsApp's failure to “adequately disclose that this commitment to privacy was subject to reversal constitutes a deceptive act or practice.”

The groups want the FTC to halt the deal until concerns about privacy are resolved. And if the deal does happen, the FTC should require Facebook to “insulate” WhatsApp's data about users.

In a statement, Facebook contends the deal will help the company to “bring more connectivity and utility to the world by delivering core Internet services efficiently and affordably” and that WhatsApp “will operate as a separate company and will honor its commitments to privacy and security."

The deal might also face scrutiny from European regulators where WhatsApp is especially popular. The company faced trouble last year when Dutch and Canadian officials said WhatsApp violated foreign privacy laws by requiring users to share their contacts' mobile phone numbers.

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