The Article 29 Working Party (WP29), which acts as a European watchdog on data protection issues, has issued a stark warning to a leading messaging app about its sharing of user data with parent company Facebook.
This is the second clash between Facebook and European legal bodies over WhatsApp and its data sharing habits after Facebook suffered a £94m fine in May for matching user accounts across both Facebook and WhatsApp platforms.
Susan Hall, a Partner and specialist lawyer in intellectual property and information technology at national firm Clarke Willmott LLP, said this signals willingness on the part of the regulator to take the fight to these huge corporations.
Hall said: “WhatsApp’s “take it or leave it” approach to data gathering clearly fails to meet the standard for valid consent, which has to be unambiguous, specific, informed, freely given and capable of being withdrawn at any time.
“This warning is a taste of things to come under the new EU General Data Protection Regulations which come into force in May 2018. All businesses will be subject to these regulations, notwithstanding Brexit, if they hold or process the personal data of EU residents, so in the light of this extra-territorial flexing of muscles by the EU, social media providers need to remember there’s no place to hide. They must abide by the regulations.”
A taskforce has now been launched by the WP29 to implement ‘a clear, comprehensive resolution’ to comply with EU law. The taskforce will be led by the UK’s ICO.