Wednesday 16 October 2019

Facebook to share messages with WhatsApp but Irish data watchdog says: ‘not for now’

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Facebook is to press ahead with attempts to let people send messages between Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.

Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out the company’s plans in a long memo.

“We plan to start by making it possible for you to send messages to your contacts using any of our services, and then to extend that interoperability to SMS too,” he wrote. “Of course, this would be opt-in and you will be able to keep your accounts separate if you'd like.”

However, in an interview to be published on Independent.ie on Thursday, Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon says that Facebook doesn’t yet have the clearance to do it.

Under European data law, the Irish data protection commissioner is the primary arbiter on what Facebook can and can’t do with regard to data protection law in Europe.

“Whatsapp’s pause on sharing data with Facebook remains in place,” she said. ”We actually have a specific statutory inquiry open, looking at the transparency that Whatsapp delivers to users.

"Part of that investigation is looking at the way that they wrote up the privacy policy in anticipation of the application of the GDPR and how they've expressed the provisions around data sharing with Facebook.

"But Whatsapp’s pause on sharing data with Facebook for the purposes of friends, suggestions, and ad serving and product enhancements is still in place.”

The recently released annual report from the Irish DPC shows that 10 of the office’s 15 statutory inquiries into multinational companies are into Facebook or one of its subsidiaries.

Mr Zuckerberg also said that he wants to make messages expire by default, mirroring the concept brought in by Snapchat.

And he said that encryption should be rolled out as a default messaging safety feature across Facebook’s platforms.

“I understand that many people don't think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform because frankly we don't currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services,” he wrote.

”We've historically focused on tools for more open sharing. I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won't stick around forever. This is the future I hope we will help bring about.”

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