Facebook, the world's biggest social network, bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock in an effort to reach a younger audience. After the acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook two years ago, both parties have publicly assured that data will not be shared between them. But last month both companies announced that WhatsApp would start handing over data about its users to Facebook. Facebook would then use that data to help its ads, generating more information about the people using it.
That agreement caused huge outrage, with many people arguing that such an arrangement shouldn't be allowed. What's more, it caused embarrassment for WhatsApp, which has in the past committed to keeping data private and not using its platform for ads.
Those criticisms have now been echoed by the Hamburg data protection commissioner. On Tuesday, they order that officially bans Facebook from collecting subscriber data from its subsidiary WhatsApp, citing privacy concerns.
The order "prohibits Facebook with immediate effect to collect and store data of German WhatsApp users", according to a statement from the watchdog. "Facebook is also ordered to delete all data that has already been forwarded by WhatsApp".
Italy's data privacy watchdog said - the order had been taken out because the data sharing deal was never done with the agreement of users of the two companies. Data can only be shared if both companies establish a legal basis to do so. But Facebook doesn’t have any approval from WhatsApp users and the legal basis for the data sharing doesn't exist. The European Court of Justice recently suggested that international companies must comply with national data protection laws if they process data in those countries.