Does Facebook have a phone number 1
The information portal for safe cell phone use
At this point we have repeatedly reported on the struggle between data protection authorities and the Facebook group. The main question was: Can the group compare the data from Facebook and its subsidiary WhatsApp and thus find out, for example, that Facebook user X and WhatsApp user Y are the same person?
The case was actually clear: the Hamburg data protection officer Johannes Caspar, who is responsible for Facebook in Germany, had forbidden the group to compare data. When trying to take legal action against the ban, Facebook repeatedly failed, for example in March 2018 before the Hamburg Higher Administrative Court.
The GDPR and data protection
Like many other observers, we at mobilsicherheit.de assumed that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) effectively restricts the problematic handling of user data by IT companies. The ordinance had formally entered into force two years ago, but it has only been in focus for a few days. Since May 25, authorities can punish violations of the GDPR with substantial fines.
Despite the GDPR, Facebook has behaved in a way that we find pretty bold. Not in the data protection declaration, but in a list of FAQs (the most frequently asked questions) under the "Security and data protection" category, they make it clear: Yes, the company combines personal data from WhatsApp and Facebook, including particularly private information, the telephone number.
WhatsApp: a data comparison takes place
Under the heading "This is how we work with the Facebook companies" WhatsApp writes:
"WhatsApp currently only shares a few categories of information with the Facebook companies. This includes the telephone number that you verified when you registered for WhatsApp, some device information (device ID, operating system version, app version, platform information, country code for the mobile number, network code and markings that allow tracking of your consent to updates and control options) and some of your usage information (when you last used WhatsApp, when you registered your account, and the type and frequency of your use of features). "
Facebook as a "service provider"
The purpose of this comparison is that "services can be provided that serve to improve WhatsApp and the further development of our company."
WhatsApp tries to present Facebook as a "service provider" who supports WhatsApp by providing technology, infrastructure or knowledge and thus helping to provide and improve WhatsApp. Specifically, the comparison of phone numbers could, for example, help to identify the extent to which WhatsApp users are also users of other Facebook services.
The only way out: do not use WhatsApp
WhatsApp says that anyone who does not agree to the transfer of data can simply not use the messenger.
The Hamburg data protection officer Johannes Caspar finds the behavior of Facebook outrageous and considers it to be legally not permissible, as he told the IT magazine Golem. He recommends that users make use of the option to object to data being passed on to Facebook. WhatsApp provides instructions for this.
Contradiction with an unclear prospect of success
An objection is possible by email. WhatsApp, however, calls for legal discussions that should deter legal laypeople. For example, you should explain which rights and freedoms are affecting data processing and why, and you should include information that can prove this. Nothing is yet known about the chances of success of such a contradiction.
It will be exciting
One thing is clear: the struggle between data protection interests and IT groups has entered a new round with the General Data Protection Regulation. In the end, European courts will decide how strictly the regulation is interpreted in practice.
The Austrian data protection activist Max Schrems and his organization noyb (for: "None of your Business") have filed a complaint in various European countries against four IT companies and their practice of "compulsory consent", including WhatsApp.
We cannot say how many different instances the dispute will go through and when there will be a final decision. But one thing is clear: you will read about the discussion about the data synchronization between WhatsApp and Facebook at this point.
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