The Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Facebook’s $16 billion acquisition of WhatsApp based on privacy concerns, according to a document released Thursday. EPIC and CDD’s problems with the acquisition center around the fact that WhatsApp staked its reputation on—that it’s a company keeping a reasonable distance from its customers’ data.
Now that it will fall under the aegis of Facebook, its users stand to lose those privacy guarantees, even though WhatsApp told its users nothing would change.
Facebook draws legal complaints for treading outside the bounds of responsible data use on a fairly regular basis.
There was Beacon, which posted users’ activity to third party sites without so much as a heads up.
There were Sponsored Stories, which placed users’ photos and names alongside ads.
There was the sudden unsolicited use of facial recognition.
The list goes on with many new and interesting ways Facebook has found to use the information it’s collected, but it’s plain that given an opportunity, Facebook is more likely to ask forgiveness than permission.
Then Facebook bought WhatsApp, the messaging app that, up until now, cared not a whit for information about its users or what they were doing. Despite the fact that the company could be sitting on a staggering database of phone numbers, locations, and names (not to mention troves of conversations, media, and links), WhatsApp has traditionally dismissed all of those opportunities.