Facebook Is Legally Banned From Processing User Data In Germany

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

On Tuesday, Germany’s lead data protection regulator banned Facebook from processing user data from WhatsApp. The decision came after emergency proceedings were opened by the German regulator, who determined that the messaging app’s privacy policy updates violate European data protection rules.

On WhatsApp, Facebook Makes the Rules

As WhatsApp’s new terms required the users to agree to the new policy update or find themselves unable to use the service, the data protection commissioner in Hamburg, Johannes Caspar, deemed the requirement as illegal and issued an order banning the social media giant from processing German users’ WhatsApp data for a period of 3 months, just as the 15 May deadline for consenting to WhatsApp’s new terms was looming on the horizon.

“This order seeks to secure the rights and freedoms of the many millions of users who give their consent to the terms of use throughout Germany,” Caspar said in a statement. “My objective is to prevent disadvantages and damages associated with such a black-box procedure.”

From the World’s Most Popular Messaging Application to Controversial Privacy Policy

WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook in 2014, quickly became the world’s most popular messaging application just one year later and is now the primary means of internet communication in Latin America, the Indian subcontinent, but also in the majority of Europe and Africa, with a user base of over 2 billion people worldwide.

The messaging app came under fire in January 2021, when it announced a controversial Privacy Policy update that removes the choice to opt-out of WhatsApp sharing its user data with Facebook and its “family of companies.” The enforcement of the privacy policy has been postponed from the initial 8 February date to 15 May 2021 and does not apply within the EU, since it is illegal under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Facebook official position: It’s all a misunderstanding

In response, Facebook said that the Hamburg data protection authority misunderstood the purpose of its update and thus plans to appeal. “As the Hamburg DPA’s claims are wrong, the order will not impact the continued roll-out of the update. We remain fully committed to delivering secure and private communications for everyone,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said.

Things to come for Facebook and WhatsApp

In the meantime, the Hamburg official urged a panel of European Union data regulators to apply the same ban to all 27 EU member states. The Italian Data Protection Authority (Garante per la Protezione dei Dati Personali – GPDP) has also previously contacted the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) over the WhatsApp T&Cs change, as a similar situation took place in India, with the government trying to block the WhatsApp update in court.

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Facebook Is Legally Banned From Processing User Data In Germany
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