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Privacy campaigners call for halt to Facebook’s WhatsApp acquisition

Clear understanding of personal data use policies needed, claim groups.

stop

Privacy rights campaigners have called for the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to stop the $19 billion (11.3 billion) acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp by social media giant Facebook.

The Electronic Privacy Center and the Center for Digital Democracy, two non-profit pressure groups, have claimed the buyout should not go ahead until it has become clear what Facebook intends to do with the personal data stored by WhatsApp.

The acquisition target has a longstanding commitment not to use data collected from users for advertising.

However, the filing to the FTC claims there is no guarantee Facebook will uphold that promise should the purchase go ahead.

In the complaint, the organisations ask that regulators look into the deal "specifically with regard to the ability of Facebook to access WhatsApp's store of user mobile phone numbers and metadata".

Currently, WhatsApp does store users' phone numbers but it does not collect their names, emails or other personally identifiable information, whereas Facebook does.

The Electronic Privacy Center and the Center for Digital Democracy highlighted the fact that Facebook has previously amended the privacy policies of companies it has acquired, such as Instagram.

As a result the groups have insisted users of the messaging service should be legally protected from Facebook's data harvesting practices on a permanent basis.

"WhatsApp users could not reasonably have anticipated that by selecting a pro-privacy messaging service, they would subject their data to Facebook's data collection practices," the complaint reads.

IT Pro contacted Facebook but had not received a response at the time of publication.

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