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FTC tells Facebook and Whatsapp to stay privacy aware

Draws short of an investigation
Mon Apr 14 2014, 15:11

THE UNITED STATES Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has written to both Facebook and Whatsapp, reminded them that it exists, and told them that it is aware of Facebook's record and would like their relationship to be privacy aware.

Though it has not committed to an investigation into the $19bn buyout of Whatsapp by Facebook, the FTC has reminded both companies of their responsibilities and its responsibility to ensure compliance.

The director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection said that she has written to the firms with some demands.

Whatsapp was asked to keep its privacy promises and Facebook was reminded about the already existing relationship it has with the commission.

"We want to make clear that, regardless of the acquisition, Whatsapp must continue to honor these promises to consumers," she said in the letter.

"Further, if the acquisition is completed and Whatsapp fails to honor these promises, both companies could be in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act and, potentially, the FTC's order against Facebook."

Facebook and the FTC settled a dispute over privacy changes in 2011 and the social network agreed to abide to a period of scrutiny and oversight. Now it and Whatsapp have been asked to get "affirmative consent" before any alterations are made to the current Whatsapp system and its terms.

Last month groups Electronic Privacy In Communications (EPIC) and the Center for Digital Democracy asked the FTC to turn its eyes to the deal, explaining that they are concerned about its impact on data privacy and protection.

"Whatsapp currently has 450 million active users, many of whom have objected to the proposed acquisition. Facebook regularly incorporates data from companies it has acquired," said EPIC in a statement.

"The Federal Trade Commission has previously responded favorably to EPIC complaints concerning Google Buzz, Microsoft Passport, Changes in Facebook Privacy Settings, and Choicepoint security practices."

In a blog post made following that request and titled "Setting the record straight", Whatsapp founder Jan Koum disputed his critics and their concerns about his service.

"Since announcing our upcoming partnership with Facebook, we've been truly humbled by how much attention our story has received. As a company, we're excited to continue focusing on offering as many people as possible the chance to stay connected with friends and loved ones, no matter who they are or where they live," he said.

"Unfortunately, there has also been a lot of inaccurate and careless information circulating about what our future partnership would mean for Whatsapp users' data and privacy." µ


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