WhatsApp, the mobile messaging app with 1.3 billion users worldwide, was given a one-month deadline to stop sharing user data with parent company Facebook without getting necessary approval. France’s data protection authority CNIL warned Facebook with a formal notice that criticized the company for “insufficiently” cooperating, Bloomberg reported.
The agency “decided to make this formal notice public in order to ensure the highest level of transparency on the massive data transfer from WhatsApp to Facebook Inc. and thus to alert to the need for individuals concerned to keep their data under control,” the regulator said in a statement on its website.
The authority rejected arguments by WhatsApp that it is subject only to U.S. laws, asserting that it becomes the authority in charge the moment any company is processing data in France. The agency said the formal notice wasn’t a sanction, but WhatsApp may be fined for failing to comply.
France’s warning to WhatsApp comes as the European Union prepares to enforce stricter privacy rules on May 25 and serves as a warning signal to marketers that safeguarding European citizens' personal data must be a priority going forward. The region’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) governs the handling of private data, enforces the “right to be forgotten” by databases that maintain information about people and specifies procedures to notify consumers of data breaches. The GDPR applies to all companies that process the personal data of EU residents, regardless of the company’s location.
Facebook faces regulatory hurdles throughout Europe over a range of privacy issues. German antitrust officials could issue findings within days on a probe into whether the company abuses its dominant position when users sign agreements that allow the social network to harvest their data. The merging of WhatsApp’s data with Facebook was a first step by the social network toward monetizing the messaging platform, which Facebook bought in 2014 for $19 billion (or $22 billion including debt).