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Facebook and WhatsApp can once again share data

As the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect, waves of companies are updating their policies in accordance. An interesting amendment comes from Facebook-owned chat service WhatsApp, which suggests that the two platforms can once again share data after agreeing not to with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

An investigation conducted by the ICO after Facebook’s $19bn absorption of WhatsApp concluded that the practice of both platforms sharing user data would, supposedly, be illegal.  “If they had shared the data, they would have been in contravention of the first and second data protection principles of the Data Protection Act,” concluded information commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

This was resolved by WhatsApp agreeing to sign an undertaking not to share personal data with Facebook until it was in full compliance with the impending GDPR. Just ahead of its implementation, updated privacy policies from each company reveal how data can now resume exchanging hands.

“We work with third-party service providers and the Facebook Companies to help us operate, provide, improve, understand, customise, support, and market our Services,” reads WhatsApp’s new Privacy Policy, via The Inquirer. “When we share information with third-party service providers and the Facebook Companies in this capacity, we require them to use your information on our behalf in accordance with our instructions and terms.”

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Provided that you accept the new terms and agreements, which is a necessity to remain on the platform, Facebook and WhatsApp can share data through integrating their products, which circumvents their inability to merge databases.

Moreover, the data that is shared is tied to each individual platform’s terms, meaning that WhatsApp washes its hands of responsibility towards any data that might be misused by a neighbouring company.

“When you use third-party services or Facebook Company Products that are integrated with our Services, they may receive information about what you share with them. For example, if you use a data backup service integrated with our Services (like iCloud or Google Drive), they will receive information you share with them,” reads the legal wording of WhatsApp’s revised policies.

“If you interact with a third-party service linked through our Services, you may be providing information directly to such third party. Please note that when you use third-party services or Facebook Company Products, their own terms and privacy policies will govern your use of those services.”

Both WhatsApp and Facebook are following legal guidelines with their revised practices, meaning that it’s less of a controversial reveal and more a cautionary tale to check everything before agreeing to it, particularly as more GDPR policy revisions flood in.

KitGuru Says: Checking privacy policies and agreements has always been the preferred course of action, often forwent thanks to the laborious documents pieced together by companies. This has become less of an excuse over the years as documents steadily become more accessible to the everyday user. Hopefully this results in more people taking responsibility over their own data.

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