data policy

Consumer Rights Group Sues WhatsApp

40 billion short messages are sent via WhatsApp per day. Source: DPA

German consumer group VZBV (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband) filed a lawsuit against WhatsApp in Berlin on Monday, claiming the messaging service stores and transfers data from its users according to its privacy terms, which it changed in August, and passes some of this data on to Facebook.

This happens regardless of whether users have a Facebook account or not, according to VZBV. Phone numbers that are just saved in WhatsApp user’s phone books are also sent to Facebook.

In its privacy policy and terms updates, the messaging service had also announced its intent to share information with Facebook on how often WhatsApp was used in order to improve advertisements and friend suggestions in Facebook.

VZBV warned WhatsApp over its change in data gathering and sharing practices in September of 2016. In November, WhatsApp announced it was temporarily suspending giving Facebook information about users in Europe.

The consumer group is now demanding all data passed on to Facebook be deleted. “In 2014, Facebook declared that the user data between the two services would not be exchanged,” said VZBV lawyer Carola Elbrecht, adding that many users had trusted this would not happen.

In December, the European Commission filed charges against Facebook for providing “misleading” information in the run-up to the social network’s acquisition of WhatsApp after its data-sharing change.

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