WhatsApp data sharing with Facebook prompts antitrust action

We learned last week that WhatsApp data sharing with Facebook would become a condition of use for users outside of Europe. This was the final element in a two-stage U-turn by the company, which has now prompted a new antitrust investigation in Turkey …

Background

Facebook acquired WhatsApp back in 2014 for $19 billion. At the time, WhatsApp initially reassured users that there would be no data sharing.

There has also been a lot of inaccurate and careless information circulating about what our future partnership would mean for WhatsApp users’ data and privacy. I’d like to set the record straight […]

Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible […] If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it. Instead, we are forming a partnership that would allow us to continue operating independently and autonomously. Our fundamental values and beliefs will not change. Our principles will not change.

That changed in 2016 when WhatsApp began sharing data with Facebook by default – but it did, at the time, have an opt-out clause.

Last week, however, the company advised that users could no longer opt out (outside of Europe, where stronger privacy protections apply).

WhatsApp data sharing reaction

There were considerable objections to the news, with many vowing to abandon WhatsApp as a result. The main barrier to doing so for many is the number of family and friends using the service, with no single obvious replacement.

Bloomberg reports that the move has now sparked an antitrust investigation too.

Turkey’s antitrust board launched an investigation into Facebook Inc. and its messaging service WhatsApp Inc. over new usage terms that have sparked privacy concerns.

Changes to WhatsApp’s terms of service, effective Feb. 8, will allow the messaging app to share data with Facebook. Users will be required to agree to the new terms, which would allow for more targeted advertisements, or lose access to their WhatsApp accounts.

The regulator also said it was halting implementation of such terms, it said on Monday. The new terms would result in “more data being collected, processed and used by Facebook,” according to the statement.

Some are skeptical, however, pointing to Turkey’s attempts to crack down on those using social media to criticize the government, suggesting that it would suit the company’s government to drive citizens away from a platform that uses end-to-end encryption.

If you can persuade family and friends to switch services, Signal and Telegram are two possible options.

Photo: Anton from Pexels

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