WhatsApp Must Maintain Its Privacy Policy After Sale to Facebook


WhatsApp Must Maintain Its Privacy Policy After Sale to Facebook

It may not be easy to change a website’s privacy policy, especially as part of an acquisition.

WhatsApp., Inc., an instant messaging service that is being acquired by Facebook, Inc., makes representations in its current privacy policy that it does not collect names, email addresses, or location data and that is does not archive messages. The Federal Trade Commission warned WhatsApp that, after its acquisition by Facebook, those privacy policies must remain in effect, especially in light of public statements by both companies that nothing will change after the acquisition regarding the collecting of user data.

“The statements in WhatsApp’s privacy policy, combined with the recent public statements by both Facebook and WhatsApp, constitute clear promises to consumers about the collection and use of their data by WhatsApp and, following WhatsApp’s purchase, Facebook,” the head of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection wrote in a letter to both companies. “As you know, the FTC has brought many cases alleging that the failure to keep promises made about privacy constitutes a deceptive practice under Section 5 of the FTC Act.”

“WhatsApp’s privacy policy clearly states, among other things, that users’ information will not be used for advertising purposes or sold to a third party for commercial or marketing use without the users’ consent,” the letter said. “Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp would not nullify these promises and WhatsApp and Facebook would continue to be bound by them.”

The FTC told WhatsApp that, if it wants to change its policies to use data collected by WhatsApp in a manner that is materially inconsistent with the promises WhatsApp made at the time of collection, then it “must obtain consumers’ affirmative consent before doing so,” and it “must not misrepresent in any manner the extent to which you maintain, or plan to maintain, the privacy or security of WhatsApp user data.” The FTC “recommended” if a change to the privacy policy is made, “you offer consumers an opportunity to opt out of such changes or, at least, that you make clear to consumers that they have an opportunity to stop using the WhatsApp service.”

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It may not be easy to change a website’s privacy policy, especially as part of an acquisition.

WhatsApp., Inc., an instant messaging service that is being acquired by Facebook, Inc., makes
representations in its current privacy policy that it does not collect names, email addresses, or
location data and that is does not archive messages. The Federal Trade Commission warned
WhatsApp that, after its acquisition by Facebook, those privacy policies must remain in effect,
especially in light of public statements by both companies that nothing will change after the
acquisition regarding the collecting of user data.

“The statements in WhatsApp’s privacy policy, combined with the recent public statements by
both Facebook and WhatsApp, constitute clear promises to consumers about the collection and
use of their data by WhatsApp and, following WhatsApp’s purchase, Facebook,” the head of the
FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection wrote in a letter to both companies. “As you know, the
FTC has brought many cases alleging that the failure to keep promises made about privacy
constitutes a deceptive practice under Section 5 of the FTC Act.”

“WhatsApp’s privacy policy clearly states, among other things, that users’ information will not
be used for advertising purposes or sold to a third party for commercial or marketing use without
the users’ consent,” the letter said. “Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp would not nullify these
promises and WhatsApp and Facebook would continue to be bound by them.”

The FTC told WhatsApp that, if it wants to change its policies to use data collected by
WhatsApp in a manner that is materially inconsistent with the promises WhatsApp made at the
time of collection, then it “must obtain consumers’ affirmative consent before doing so,” and it
“must not misrepresent in any manner the extent to which you maintain, or plan to maintain, the
privacy or security of WhatsApp user data.” The FTC “recommended” if a change to the privacy
policy is made, “you offer consumers an opportunity to opt out of such changes or, at least, that
you make clear to consumers that they have an opportunity to stop using the WhatsApp service.”

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