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It’s all getting a bit sticky for Facebook and WhatsApp

Businessman Sitting On Bench

Following concerns expressed by a UK government body over data sharing between Facebook and WhatsApp, the social media giant has confirmed it has halted plans across Europe.

According to the Financial Times, Facebook has slammed the brakes following the announcement in August it would be using WhatsApp data to better personalize advertising campaigns for brands. While the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) was the most recent body to weigh in on the saga, it certainly isn’t alone.

The Article 29 Working Party released a statement last month condemning the actions, Germany altogether banned any data sharing, France and Italy are investigating as well, and the Spanish are about to open their own inquiry. Facebook and WhatsApp have managed to turn pretty much an entire continent against them in a matter of weeks, Trump would be impressed by their efficiency.

The suspension has been confirmed by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s office, which said it would take “appropriate action” after it had investigated the “quality of the notice and information delivered to users of the WhatsApp service prior to their making a choice to either continue using WhatsApp or to cancel their account”.

Until this mess has been sorted out, the data sharing for advertising purposes will stop, however it will continue to share back-end user data to fight spam for example.

While a minor win for data protection advocates throughout the European Union, the move represents a significant PR fail for the Facebook/WhatsApp team. During the initial announcement the Facebook/WhatsApp PR gurus pitched the data sharing idea as one which would improve user experience, as advertising would be more personalized and the user would not be inundated with irrelevant adverts.

How considerate of them, after-all, nothing starts my day better than seeing an advert for a coffee maker or the latest overpriced cafe serving caramelized tofu in Shoreditch, where the furniture doesn’t match and you can buy the paintings by someone you’ve never heard of for a couple of hundred quid (or whatever sh*t they’ve come up with recently). Facebook should consider writing to the guys at the Oxford Dictionary because they are so far off with their definition of customer experience and should be corrected ASAP.

These developments will just top off a couple of under-par weeks for the social media giant, after claims false stories on the newsfeed influenced the US Election in Trump’s favour, and yesterday’s announcement of bugs causing false information from advertising metrics being passed back to advertisers. Zuckerberg is having a week to forget.


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