CNIL orders WhatsApp to stop sharing data with Facebook

Phillip Butler
December 19, 2017

The CNIL said WhatsApp did not have the legal basis to share user data with Facebook and had violated its obligation to cooperate with the French authority.

France's data protection agency on Monday told messaging app WhatsApp it needs to obtain users' permission to transfer some information to its parent company Facebook and gave it a month to comply.

Data was invalidly collected because for two reason: it was not specific to this objective.

The French regulator said that WhatsApp had not properly obtained users' consent to begin sharing their phone numbers with Facebook for "business intelligence" purposes. However, this was a problem for the WhatsApp users, and questioned the application's privacy policy.

Germany ordered Facebook to stop collecting data from WhatsApp users in September last year, and in the UK, Facebook agreed to stop collecting WhatsApp user data in November last year. The watchdog considered that the data transfer for "business intelligence" goal is not based on the legal basis required by the Data Protection Act for any processing. WhatsApp has been given a month's time to comply with the order.


The Cnil said that while there could be a case to share for the efficient functioning of the application, it wa not the case for the "business intelligence" goal, which aims at improving performances and optimising the use of the application through the analysis of its user behaviour.

The agency also criticized WhatsApp for "insufficient" cooperation after the initial warning from the European Union privacy authorities that had said they had serious concerns over WhatsApp sharing user data when its users had only signed up to use WhatsApp, not Facebook.

Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, and ever since then, it is not the first time that WhatsApp-Facebook data sharing issue has come up.

European data protection authorities can only impose small fines at the moment, but a new EU privacy law entering into force next year will increase fines to up to 4 per cent of a company's global turnover.

What worsened the situation was that WhatsApp declined to provide data transfer samples after repeated requests from the CNIL.

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