WhatsApp, social apps, free messaging

Two American privacy watchdogs are attempting to stop Facebook’s $19-billion acquisition of popular messaging service WhatsApp, citing privacy concerns. The groups chief fear is that the acquisition will give Facebook access to mobile phone numbers data that WhatsApp has built up on its 465 million users.

The two groups — The Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy — have filed(PDF) an ‘unfair and deceptive practices’ complaint with the Federal Trade Commission that accuses Facebook of violating the consent decree issued by the regulatory agency in 2011. The complaint also says WhatsApp’s more stringent privacy policy conflicts with Facebook’s more open one. The groups are asking the FTC to “halt Facebook’s proposed acquisition of WhatsApp” until the concerns listed in the complaint are “adequately” addressed.

“Despite Facebook’s denial that [WhatsApp’s] digital gold mine of [user data] won’t become part of its advertising machine, one only has to look at what happened with Instagram”

“The millions of WhatsApp users who signed up for the service were promised — repeatedly as you will read in the complaint — that the company didn’t want to gather and commericialize their data,” the Center for Digital Democracy said in a statement on its website. “They posed as the ‘unFacebook,’ deriding the commercial surveillance apparatus that lies at the core of contemporary online practices. Yet at the same time they made their public privacy promises, they were being wooed by Mark Zuckerberg to join The Circle — oops, I mean Facebook. Despite Facebook’s denial that WhatsApp and its digital gold mine of mobile numbers, address books, and access to selling all kinds of financial services in real-time won’t become part of its Big Data-driven advertising machine, one only has to look at what happened with Instagram (let alone the track record of the industry).”

Facebook, however, said the concerns of the privacy groups have no foundation and that WhatsApp “will operate as a separate company and will honor its commitments to privacy and security.”

The FTC has yet to comment on whether or not it will launch an investigation.

Avatar photo

By Josh Robert Nay

Josh Robert Nay is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TruTower. He has worked in the telecommunications industry since 2003 and specializes in GSM based technology. He also uses (too many) VoIP apps and is a long-time user of BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Phone. He adores anything having to do with space exploration and writing. In addition to the links below, he can be found on LinkedIn and can also be found on his website at http://www.joshrobertnay.com.