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US authorities makes strict privacy ruling on FB’s WhatsApp deal

While US authorities have approved Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp, it has ruled that it must get user permission for data usage.

The ruling comes from Federal Trade Commission, as it approves Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp in the US. The deal still requires approval from international regulators. However, since both are incorporated in the US, the ruling will have significant influence on how the companies operate globally, barring minor issues in individual markets.

(Read also: Should you be creeped out when Facebook buys WhatsApp)

“As you know, both companies collect data from consumers but make different promises and statements with respect to consumers’ privacy. In particular, and as discussed in more detail below, WhatsApp has made a number of promises about the limited nature of the data it collects, maintains, and shares with third parties promises that exceed the protections currently promised to Facebook users. We want to make clear that, regardless of the acquisition, WhatsApp must continue to honor these promises to consumers,” said the FTC.

Read the letter here:

Facebook has issued statements to several press saying that it is “pleased the FTC has completed its review and cleared our acquisition of WhatsApp. Naturally, both companies will continue to comply with all applicable laws after the transaction closes.”

WhatsApp’s most recent privacy policy from July 7th 2012, states that:

  • “WhatsApp does not collect names, emails, addresses or other contact information from its users’ mobile address book or contact lists other than mobile phone numbers”
  • “We do not collect location data”
  • “The contents of messages that have been delivered by the WhatsApp Service are not copied,
  • kept or archived by WhatsApp.”
  • “We do not use your mobile phone number or other Personally Identifiable Information to send commercial or marketing messages without your consent”
  • “We do not sell or share your Personally Identifiable Information (such as mobile phone number) with other third-party companies for their commercial or marketing use without your consent”

It assured users that nothing would change after the acquisition, with Mark Zuckerberg echoing the same stand.

However, this does not mean Facebook cannot change its stand on data collection, simply that it needs direct permission if they want to.

Said the FTC in its letter to the companies: “If you choose to use data collected by WhatsApp in a manner that is materially inconsistent with the promises WhatsApp made at the time of collection, you must obtain consumers’ affirmative consent before doing so.”

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