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Facebook pauses WhatsApp data sharing under EU pressure

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Facebook’s attempts to put its association with WhatsApp to good use do not seem to be getting it anywhere. After regulators across the European continent cried foul over WhatsApp’s new data sharing policies, the company is now moving to pause many of its policies that allowed it to share data with Facebook. The company will now attempt to clarify its position in hopes of reinstating them in the future.

It should be remembered that Facebook acquired WhatsApp back in 2014 in a massive, $19 Billion deal. Immediately, a string of questions over how the social network would attempt to monetize its acquisition followed. While advertising was a option, considering the over 1 Billion users the IM services boasts of, Facebook decided to keep the app ad-free.

So the service operated in an essentially free manner. In India, the INR 55 per year plan never came to materialize as well and was nipped before it began. These moves, while welcomed by users, weren’t really the best strategy towards turning WhatsApp into a profitable enterprise. Meanwhile, WhatsApp users recently started seeing a new option on their screens that prompted them to agree before they could continue using the service.

Most users of course, clicked agree without reading the T&C. Those few who did click on the T&C discovered that it included a clause that would allow WhatsApp to share all its info, including phone number, with Facebook. And yes, the option to opt out was also included in the same place.

These new policies, and the rather sneaky way that WhatsApp projected them before users, sparked protests across Europe. Many regulatory bodies voiced their concern against the new order of things. Speaking on the topic, EU had mentioned

Serious concerns regarding  the manner in which the information relating to the updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy was provided to users and consequently about the validity of the users’ consent.

WP29 also questions the effectiveness of control mechanisms offered to users to exercise their rights and the effects that the data sharing will have on people that are not a user of any other service within the Facebook family of companies.

So here is how things stand at present. WhatsApp is pausing some of its data sharing policies — specifically those for products and advertising purposes, across Europe. It will continue to share back-end user data required for other, nobler purposes that include fighting spam. WhatsApp may also rephrase its question about data sharing so that users know exactly what they are getting into when they click “Agree” this time around.

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