Last week Europeans who were concerned about how Facebook intended to use data from WhatsApp must have pumped heir fists in he air several times as news emerged that Facebook had temporarily suspended plans to use WhatsApp users data information on Facebook.
According to the Financial times, the office of the commissioner of Data Protection in Ireland confirmed to them that Facebook had actually stopped collecting WhatsApp data. This was implemented about three weeks ago by Facebook.
In case you are wondering why it was the Irish ha had to confirm this news to Financial Times, Facebook’s European regulatory body is based in Ireland.
This furore started in August when Facebook updated the terms and conditions of using WhatsApp, the number one messaging app in the world.
In the new terms and conditions, WhatsApp indicated that users private login details would be shared with Facebook. Although, there was a provision for users to opt out of the feature, getting the opt out page was not clear cut.
So it would have being easy for people to just accept the new conditions without going through the hassles of opting out.
Being the number one messaging app with about a billion users, Facebook must have thought their dominance in the market would ensure that WhatsApp users just roll over and accept the new conditions.
The backlash from the new terms and conditions I am sure caught Facebook and WhatsApp by surprise. Despite Facebook’s attempt to reassure people that it was not as bad as people were making it to be, the pressure on Facebook to back-tract was relentless
The Europeans especially where having none of it. 28 data protection authorities in the Union signed an opened letter to Facebook asking them to rescind that decision.
The letter was supposed to be a call to suspend the action until the authorities were able to study how legal the act was.
The German authorities did not wait for that to happen. They passed a ruling declaring the act by Facebook illegal. Part of the ruling ordered the company to delete all the information they have so far collected of the over 35 million users of WhatsApp in the country.
Other countries like Italy, UK and France are also investigating the issue without recourse to the European Union. With he precedent already set by Germany, there is only one way in which this is going to end: Facebook would be ordered to stop collecting user details from WhatsApp.
The problem for Facebook is directly linked to when they bought WhatsApp for 19 billion dollars two years ago. Amid growing concern about user privacy, Facebook promised to protect user information.
But then, WhatsApp has grown so big it became hard for Facebook to ignore the gold mine that is the users’ details in WhatsApp.
Facebook have been toying with he idea of hosting ads on WhatsApp, but it is very obvious that it is not going to be easy to sell ads on WhatsApp the way it is structured.
The only way seems to be through Facebook. It made a lot of sense for Facebook. Because, ads are already an accepted part of Facebook; so why not increase the revenue from Facebook ads by sharing WhatsApp user details with advertisers?
Facebook is not likely to just give up that gold mine like that. According to what they told The Verge:
We hope to continue our detailed conversations with the UK Information Commissioner’s Office and other data protection officials.”
In other words, they are saying this is not he end of the matter, but just a temporary truce while they try and make the idea palatable to the authorities.
My own take is simple: Facebook would really have to very creative to be able to convince the Europeans to agree to any form of data sharing between Facebook and WhatsApp.
image credit: web.whatsapp.com; flags.net; yosuccess.com; cnbc.com