Privacy groups: FTC should investigate Facebook-WhatsApp deal

Privacy groups are worried that Facebook will use metadata from WhatsApp users to better tailor its online ads.
By Ananth Baliga  |  March 7, 2014 at 11:50 AM
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MENLO PARK, Calif., March 7 (UPI) -- Two privacy groups have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the Facebook-WhatsApp deal, citing unfair trade practices, as it's unclear what Facebook will do with the personal data of WhatsApp's users.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center and Center for Digital Democracy said that WhatsApp users had no expectation that their data would be collected and used for advertising purposes, something Facebook will likely do.

“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,” the complaint says. “The proposed acquisition will therefore violate WhatsApp users’ understanding of their exposure to online advertising and constitutes an unfair and deceptive trade practice, subject to investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.”

The two groups claim that the deal would open up WhatsApp users to online advertising, which could be considered an "unfair and deceptive trade practice." Facebook has maintained that WhatsApp will be a separate company, and will honor the privacy agreements that WhatsApp has with its users.

“Facebook’s goal is to bring more connectivity and utility to the world by delivering core Internet services efficiently and affordably -- this partnership will help make that happen,” said Jodi Seth, a spokeswoman for Facebook, in a statement. “As we have said repeatedly, WhatsApp will operate as a separate company and will honor its commitments to privacy and security.”

Facebook last month acquired WhatsApp, a messaging service, for $19 billion, and added to its already 1.2 billion users another 450 million WhatsApp users. Facebook has been trying to boost ad sales on its social network, and uses metadata from its users to target its ads.

[BBC] [Bloomberg]

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