Facebook appeared to do something of a U-turn back in August, when it started collecting data from WhatsApp despite an earlier statement that its acquisition of the messaging app would not impact user privacy. It has now agreed to cease doing so in the UK after the government privacy watchdog warned it that it may be breaking the law, reports the FT.

Facebook has agreed to pause its collection of WhatsApp user data in the UK as a result of a probe by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

“We’ve set out the law clearly to Facebook, and we’re pleased that they’ve agreed to pause using data from UK WhatsApp users for advertisements or product improvement purposes,” Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner said.

The UK is not the only country where the legality of Facebook’s actions is being questioned …

The same thing happened earlier in Germany, the company agree to stop pulling data from WhatsApp after being told that doing so broke the law. Both France and Italy are also carrying out investigations into Facebook’s use of data from WhatsApp users.

WhatsApp founder Jan Koum said that the company was still abiding by its commitment to know as little as possible about its users. The FT cites him stating that ‘the app [is] not sitting on a wealth of information about its users, whose messages and calls are protected by end-to-end encryption, and [the company does] not even know their names or gender.’

Facebook offered a temporary out for users who were unhappy sharing their data, but this option has now expired for most people.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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