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FTC OKs Facebook-WhatsApp deal, warns both to honor privacy promises

While Facebook is open about sharing user data, WhatsApp has repeatedly said that it does not collect or share any user data.
By Ananth Baliga   |   April 11, 2014 at 11:04 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, April 11 (UPI) -- The Federal Trade Commission has approved the $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook, but warned both companies to honor privacy promises made to users after the deal.

The deal has cleared the competitive review process, but the FTC sent Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan and WhatsApp General Counsel Anne Hoge {link:a strongly worded letter reminding them of their responsibility towards ensuring and protecting users' privacy: "http://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/public_statements/297701/140410facebookwhatappltr.pdf" target="_blank"}.

"WhatsApp has made a number of promises about the limited nature of the data it collects, maintains, and shares with third parties -promises that exceed the protections currently promised to Facebook users. We want to make clear that, regardless of the acquisition, WhatsApp must continue to honor these promises to consumers," read the letter from Jessica Rich, the director of the bureau of consumer protection.

WhatsApp states in its privacy policy that it does not collect users' names, locations, email addresses or mobile address book data, nor does it share or sell users' phone numbers to third parties.

After announcing the deal both Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum reiterated their commitment to not change WhatsApp's privacy policies.

"Hundreds of millions of users have entrusted their personal information to WhatsApp," Rich wrote. "The FTC staff will continue to monitor the companies' practices to ensure that Facebook and WhatsApp honor the promises they have made to those users."

The letter notes that the companies will have to get affirmative consent from users before making any changes to how data is collected.

In 2011, Facebook had to settle with the FTC on charges that it deceived its users by telling them that they could keep their information private, but then allowed such information to be shared and made public. Under the terms of the settlement, Facebook must get consumers' consent before making any changes that override their privacy settings.

[CNET]
[Federal Trade Commission]

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