German Privacy Authority Orders WhatsApp Not to Share German User Data With Facebook

By Bill Toulas / May 11, 2021

The Hamburg data privacy regulator in Germany has issued a three-month emergency ban to WhatsApp, prohibiting the instant messaging app from sharing German user data with Facebook. The organization wants to help German users keep their data private after the new privacy policy comes into effect on May 15, 2021, and use this time to push for a Europe-wide action against the platform.

More specifically, Johannes Caspar, who heads Hamburg’s privacy watchdog, stated that he would encourage similar rulings for all of the EU’s 27 national data protection regulators, forcing WhatsApp to scrap its terms, at least for the continent. As the man said, WhatsApp’s new terms are intransparent, inconsistent, and overly broad, so they’re risky for users.

WhatsApp has promised not to oust anyone from the platform immediately if they don’t accept the new terms, but instead will gradually remove some features from the app until it’s unusable. Apparently, people like Caspar are afraid that many users may choose to give away their privacy to retain the full spectrum of the software’s features, either due to lack of knowledge or due to irrational decision-making. After all, accepting the new terms is a matter of a single tap on a screen, and it’s done.

As Caspar further explains, Facebook is merely going after the user data that makes targeted advertisements possible and profitable, so all in all, WhatsApp is turning into a tool for that and nothing more. What the regulator sees is a merger of information and profiles, and none of what is being introduced in the new terms is expected to work to the benefit of the end users.

The IM platform responded by characterizing Caspar’s claims wrong, saying that orders of this kind won’t and can’t stop the roll-out of the new terms anyway. For WhatsApp, what the Hamburg authority is doing is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of the new terms.

If you’re using WhatsApp and still in the dark about what’s all that about, check out this post where we explain what the new privacy policy update will bring, what not accepting it means for you, and what options you have after May 15, 2021. If you are planning to continue using the app, make sure to read and understand how the new terms impact your data privacy.

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