Facebook said when it acquired WhatsApp back in early 2014 that it won’t be able to link WhatsApp users to their Facebook accounts. But it turns out that’s not so difficult after all. Last year, the company changed the WhatsApp terms of service to do just that, link the WhatsApp and Facebook profiles belonging to the same user.
Facebook allowed users to opt out, but that wasn’t enough for regulators. Germany ordered Facebook to stop collecting WhatsApp data last September, and the same thing happened in the UK a couple of months later. Fast forward to December 2017, and we have one more European country issuing a similar order.
For some reason, France needed an extra year to reach the same conclusion as other countries in Europe. The country’s Chair of the National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) authority issued a formal notice to Facebook on Monday, to obtain consent from WhatsApp users to transfer their data over to Facebook.
That means WhatsApp has to stop sharing data automatically with Facebook, and find a different way to collect data in the future, one that doesn’t violate “the fundamental freedom of users.”
CNIL said it agrees with Facebook that the WhatsApp-Facebook link can improve security. But it doesn’t agree with the “business intelligence” aspect of it that allows Facebook to collect WhatsApp data.
CNIL explained that the only way to refuse the data transfer for “business Intelligence” is to uninstall the application:
On the other hand, the company WHATSAPP cannot claim a legitimate interest to massively transfer data to the company FACEBOOK Inc. insofar as this transfer does not provide adequate guarantees allowing to preserve the interest or the fundamental freedoms of users since there is no mechanism whereby they can refuse it while continuing to use the application.
The regulator said that WhatsApp did not cooperate with CNIL sufficiently, as it refused to provide a sample of the French users’ data transferred to Facebook on account that the data is located in the US.
Facebook has one month to comply with the order.
Facebook was already fined $122 million in the EU for misleading regulators about its ability to link WhatsApp and Facebook profiles.