Thursday, March 13, 2014

Time To Find Yourself A New Messaging App

Facebook's purchase of mobile messaging service WhatsApp is now being challenged by privacy groups.  Mark Zuckerberg's firm is planning to buy the company for around $18 billion.  Facebook said it will operate WhatsApp as a separate company and honor existing privacy agreements, which include not collecting user data for advertising.

But opponents want the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to stop the deal until Facebook provides more information on what it plans to do with the personal data of WhatsApp's users.  "WhatsApp built a user-base based on its commitment not to collect user data for advertising revenue," says a complaint filed with the FTC by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy.

They added: "Users provided detailed personal information to the company including private text to close friends. 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."

Despite assurances by WhatsApp and Facebook that the privacy policies will not change, the groups noted that Mark Zuckerberg's social networking company has in the past amended an acquired-company's privacy policies.  Notably, it did so with the Instagram photo-sharing service that it bought in 2012.

The complaint asks that Facebook be required to "insulate" WhatsApp user information from access by Facebook's data collection practices.  "WhatsApp users could not reasonably have anticipated that by selecting a pro-privacy messaging service, they would subject their data to Facebook's data collection practices."

The FTC will decide whether the acquisition can go ahead and, if so, whether or not conditions should be imposed.

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