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Facebook halts its plan to collect data from WhatsApp users in the UK

(Image credit: Image Credit: Endermasali / Shutterstock)

Facebook has decided to halt its controversial plan to collect data from users of its WhatsApp messaging service after facing pressure from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in the UK.

The ICO noted that the social network has agreed to put its data sharing efforts on hold while the regulator investigates if its actions are in compliance with data laws in the country.

In August, WhatsApp announced that it would begin sharing data with Facebook, which acquired the messaging service in October of 2104 for $19 billion. The messaging service currently has over 1 billion users in the UK which is why the Information Commissioner's Office decided to look into the new data sharing agreement as quickly as it did in an effort to protect users' rights. Facebook did not plan on using the data it collected outright to enhance users' profiles on the social network.  Instead it intended to use the data which included phone numbers and device information in order to show users advertisements that were more relevant to them and to offer better friend suggestions.

Despite Facebook's seemingly good intentions, WhatsApp users believed that their privacy was being violated and that the messaging service was breaking promises that it had made previously to protect the privacy of its users.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham was concerned that Facebook may be exploiting WhatsApp users through its new policy and she even considered fining the social network, saying: “I don't think users have been given enough information about what Facebook plans to do with their information, and I don't think WhatsApp has got valid consent from users to share the information. If that information is then exploited more than agreed, for a purpose we don't like, then we're entitled to be concerned.”

For now though, Facebook has agreed to stop collecting data from WhatsApp users in the UK and Denham has stressed the point that if the social network shares any data without proper consent it will likely face a large fine from the ICO. 

Image Credit: Endermasali / Shutterstock

Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.