Facebook's WhatsApp purchase challenged

Facebook's purchase of mobile messaging service WhatsApp has been opposed by privacy groups.

Mark Zuckerberg's firm is planning to buy the company for around £11bn.

Opponents want US regulators to stop the deal until Facebook provides more information on what it plans to do with the personal data of WhatsApp's users.

But Facebook said it will operate as a separate company and honour existing privacy arrangements, which include not collecting user data for advertising.

"WhatsApp built a user-base based on its commitment not to collect user data for advertising revenue," read a complaint filed with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It was drawn up by two non-profit groups, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy.

They added: "Users provided detailed personal information to the company including private text to close friends. Facebook routinely makes use of user information for advertising purposes and has made clear that it intends to incorporate the data of WhatsApp users into the user profiling business model.

"The proposed acquisition will therefore violate WhatsApp users' understanding of their exposure to online advertising and constitutes an unfair and deceptive trade practice, subject to investigation by the Federal Trade Commission."

And the groups, which work on research and consumer protection online, asked the regulators to investigate the deal "specifically with regard to the ability of Facebook to access WhatsApp's store of user mobile phone numbers and metadata".

Facebook, the world's top social network with 1.2 billion users, generates the majority of its revenue by showing ads that target users by age, gender and other traits.

"As we have said repeatedly, WhatsApp will operate as a separate company and will honour its commitments to privacy and security," Facebook said in a statement seen by Reuters.

- BBC.co.uk


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