EPIC and CDD file "Unfair and Deceptive" Practices Complaint at FTC on Facebook/WhatsApp Deal: WhatsApp Users Were Promised Privacy/Now they will have Facebook

We urge you to review the attached FTC complaint that was filed today by EPIC (link is external) and CDD. The millions of WhatsApp users who signed up for the service were promised—repeatedly as you will read in the complaint—that the company didn’t want to gather and commercialize their data. They posed as the “unFacebook,” deriding the commercial surveillance apparatus that lies at the core of contemporary online practices. Yet at the same time they made their public privacy promises, they were being wooed (link is external) by Mark Zuckerberg to join The Circle (link is external)—oops, I mean Facebook. Despite Facebook’s denial that WhatsApp and its digital gold mine of mobile numbers, address books, and access to selling all kinds of financial services in real-time won’t become part of its Big Data-driven (link is external) advertising machine, one only has to look at what happened with Instagram (link is external) (let alone the track record of the industry).

The Dutch and Canadian data protection authorities raised serious questions (link is external) about WhatsApp’s own data and privacy policies in January. The Dutch report (attached) provides insights into how WhatsApp operates.

The FTC (which will likely review the merger) needs to stand up for privacy and act on the complaint. Otherwise, WhatsApp’s users will be merely Facebook customers who have lost their privacy and consumer protection rights.