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An Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) investigation into WhatsApp’s decision to share customer data with Facebook has confirmed initial concerns that personal information is not being properly handled.
The UK’s information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said in an official company blog that consumers have been left in the dark about this development.
“I had concerns that consumers weren’t being properly protected, and it’s fair to say the enquiries my team have made haven’t changed that view,” she said.
“I don’t think users have been given enough information about what Facebook plans to do with their information, and I don’t think WhatsApp has got valid consent from users to share the information.”
The ICO has asked both companies to give customers a better understanding of how their information will be used and to also give them control over their personal information.
They have also been asked to let customers have a say in whether or not Facebook should be able to use their data from WhatsApp.
So far, both companies have yet to agree to the requests. “We’ll keep pushing on this,” reported Denham.
Facebook has however, agreed to stop using data from WhatsApp users in the UK for advertisement purposes for the moment, reported Denham.
It was reported that the ICO would look into this back in August after WhatsApp announced that information, including user phone numbers would be shared with Facebook. This is in a bid to help targeted advertising on the social media site.
The ICO has assured that they will take action, should Facebook share customer information on their site.
Denham continued: “It’s a particular concern when company mergers mean that vast amounts of customers’ personal data become an asset to be bought and sold.
“We’re seeing situations where companies are being bought primarily for this data, and when it is combined with information the purchasing company already holds, there’s a danger that consumers will have little control as datasets are matched and intrusive details revealed”.
Privacy concerns surrounding customer data online are continually being reported. Tips on keeping your information protected on WhatsApp include restricting access to your profile photo and hiding your ‘last seen’ timestamp.
Author Narinder Purba, We Live Security