Two privacy groups, Center for Digital Democracy and The Electronic Privacy Information Center have urged Federal Trade Commission to probe the recent $19 billion acquisition of messaging app WhatsApp by Facebook.
They have urged the regulator to block the deal from going through before the privacy issues raised by them are addressed. They fear that Facebook will data of 450 million WhatsApp users for targeted advertising.
WhatsApp had pledged in the past to always remain advertisement free. The complaint filed with the FTC says:
“WhatsApp built a user base based on its commitment not to collect user data for advertising revenue. “Acting in reliance on WhatsApp representations, Internet users provided detailed personal information to the company including private text to close friends. Facebook routinely makes use of user information for advertising purposes and has made clear that it intends to incorporate the data of WhatsApp users into the user profiling business model. The proposed acquisition will therefore violate WhatsApp users’ understanding of their exposure to online advertising and constitutes an unfair and deceptive trade practice, subject to investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.”
However, both Facebook and WhatsApp have said after the deal that “nothing” will change for the uers. The CEO of Mark Zuckerberg said last month:
“We are absolutely not going to change plans around WhatsApp and the way it uses user data.They might use people and infrastructure to grow, but the vision is to keep the service exactly the same.”
Facebook has already entered into a privacy settlement with FTC which requires it to get users’ permission before releasing their personal information ever.