France's privacy watchdog, on Monday issued a formal notice to WhatsApp, asking the messaging app to stop sharing user data with Facebook.
This decision finally stopped the battle which began a year ago when WhatsApp updated their Terms of Service to add a clause detailing the sharing of data with Facebook for targeted advertisement.
The French data protection authority - CNIL - said on Monday it had told WhatsApp to comply with the order within one month, and pay particular attention to obtaining users' consent.
What worsened the situation was that WhatsApp declined to provide data transfer samples after repeated requests from the CNIL. That violates "the fundamental freedoms of users", said the CNIL.
While it is not clear exactly how Facebook and WhatsApp will respond to this, it is likely that the order will be complied with. However, the investigations found violations of the French Data Protection Act, namely for the sharing of data for "business intelligence".
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The CNIL's order says: "While the security goal seems to be essential to the efficient functioning of the application, it is not the case for the "business intelligence" objective which aims at improving performances and optimizing the use of the application through the analysis of its users' behavior". They had sent a letter to WhatsApp founder Jan Koum in October voicing concerns over not getting appropriate user consent.
Data was invalidly collected because for two reason: it was not specific to this objective.
The agency wrote in its statement that it was disclosing the decision because of 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". When installing the application, users must accept that their data are processed for the messaging service, but also, in general, by Facebook for accessory purposes such as the improvement of its service.
The data transfers from WhatsApp to Facebook happen in part without the users' consent, nor the legitimate interest of WhatsApp, CNIL said. If it does not, the agency may appoint an internal investigator.