Tuesday 12 December 2017

EU warns WhatsApp over sharing data with Facebook parent

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Whatsapp has been warned by EU data officials to stop sharing users' information with Facebook until further notice.

The European Union's 28 data protection authorities said in a statement they had serious concerns about WhatsApp's recent change in privacy policy in which it would share users' phone numbers with Facebook.

It was the first policy change since Facebook bought the messaging service in 2014.

The authorities, known as the Article 29 Working Party (WP29), requested that WhatsApp stop sharing users' data with Facebook until the "appropriate legal protections could be assured" to avoid falling foul of EU data protection law.

WhatsApp's new privacy policy involved the sharing of information with Facebook for purposes that were not included in the terms of service when users signed up, raising questions about the validity of users' consent, the regulators said.

A WhatsApp spokeswoman said the company was working with data protection authorities to address their questions.

"We've had constructive conversations, including before our update, and we remain committed to respecting applicable law," she said.

Facebook has had run-ins with European privacy watchdogs in the past over its processing of users' data. However, the fines that regulators can levy are paltry in comparison to the revenues of the big U.S. tech companies concerned.

Meanwhile, Apple has vigorously defended a tax settlement in Italy led by one of its senior Irish-based executives.

The company agreed to a settlement of €45,000 for unpaid taxes in the country without any finding of law-breaking.

Michael O'Sullivan, head of Apple's Irish-based unit, Apple Sales International, agreed the tax settlement with Italian authorities.

"Michael has agreed to settle this case on behalf of Apple in order to put the matter behind us," a spokesman for Apple told the Irish Independent.

"He has our full confidence and support and remains an important part of our management team in Europe."

The case was the first of its kind to be brought against any Apple employees in Europe relating to unpaid taxes.

Italian prosecutors swooped on Apple's offices in 2013 and alleged that the company's scheme for redirecting revenues to Ireland was illegal under Italian law.

However, Apple says that it adhered to all Italian legal guidance from authorities.

"Apple has always complied with the instructions we received from the Italian tax authorities and during a tax audit in 2012 the authorities again confirmed we were filing our local tax returns correctly," said the Apple spokesman.

"In 2015 the tax authority contradicted its guidance and said they now believed Apple had not filed its returns from the correct entity. When the authorities changed their view we complied."

The Apple spokesman said that Michael O'Sullivan acted properly at all times.

"Michael O'Sullivan has worked for Apple for over 25 years and has always operated with the highest integrity," said the spokesman.

"He is a valued member of our finance team and his responsibilities include oversight of the team filing some of our international tax returns and other regulatory requirements since 1999."

(Additional reporting Reuters)

Irish Independent

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