The National Data Protection Authority in Germany has moved to block the recent privacy changes made by Facebook regarding the collection of data from the recently acquired WhatsApp messenger.
German authorities have also ordered Facebook to delete any of the data it has already collected for an estimated 35 million users.
It was only last month that WhatsApp announced it was to begin sharing certain aspects of users’ online information with its parent company, Facebook.
The move caused anger among many users and privacy groups worldwide, especially as Facebook had originally responded to privacy concerns in 2014 by stating that nothing would change for its users, only for what some conceived to be an inevitable about face 18 months later.
The German regulator made the order on Tuesday saying in a statement that it should be individual users’ decision whether their WhatsApp account was shared with Facebook. WhatsApp users currently have the option to opt out via the settings options, and must also curiously ominously toned warning, informing them they can’t undo the decision once its made. The German regulator’s position however, is that Facebook should be asking WhatsApp users in advance to opt in, rather than having them opt out.
Facebook “neither has obtained an effective approval from the WhatsApp users, nor does a legal basis for the data reception exist,” the regulator concluded.
Facebook’s official response to the order is that they had complied with European privacy laws, and that it would be willing to work with the German regulator over its concerns.
Facebook said in a statement: “Facebook complies with EU data protection law. We will work with the Hamburg DPA in an effort to address their questions and resolve any concerns.”
The German regulator has the authority to make such an order over Facebook as the company’s European activities are head-quartered in Hamburg.
Facebook has had to contend with a multitude of privacy challenges in Europe in recent years, including some from national regulators in Belgium and France, and are also currently being investigated by the UK authorities over their recent changes to their WhatsApp data collection policy.