In this day and age, data privacy is paramount to a lot of people and the debate over just how paramount it should be is in full swing. While the encryption discussion rages on, Facebook continues to collect data on users of WhatsApp, a chat app that they bought in 2014. While Facebook's user base is gigantic, the overlap with WhatsApp's user base is far from complete. The issue at hand is with users who don't fall into that overlap. Facebook is collecting various bits of user data on WhatsApp users who either do not use Facebook or have not linked their Facebook and WhatsApp accounts. In Hamburg, Germany, the government has stepped in to stop this behavior.
A press release from The Hamburg Commissioner For Data Protection And Freedom Of Information condemns the practice, and functions to let the public know that the office has handed down an official administrative order for Facebook to stop collecting WhatsApp user data. The letter reiterates earlier statements that data sharing between the two of them on a compulsory basis would never happen, then goes on to talk about the current data collection practices as deceptive to users and an outright breach of relevant German data protection laws. Reportedly, for the law to not be broken, two things that have not happened will need to happen; Facebook and WhatsApp need to obtain user permission to get and share their data, and the two have to establish a "legal basis" for the transfer with national authorities.
According to commissioner Johannes Caspar, the practice is disconcerting for a few reasons. According to the commissioner, the 35 million some odd WhatsApp users in Germany who depend on the law to keep their data secure should have a choice on whether to hand out their data at all, let alone whether it ends up in Facebook's hands. Some users apparently have had data automatically uploaded from their devices despite making no choice to share such data with either WhatsApp or Facebook, and the fact that Facebook has not issued an official statement about these users worries the commissioner. While Facebook has been ordered to halt involuntary and undisclosed data collection, they have yet to issue a statement regarding the user data that they already have.