Privacy Groups Ask Feds to Investigate Facebook’s WhatsApp Buy

None

National Journal
Dustin Volz
March 6, 2014, 11:11 a.m.

Face­book’s $19 bil­lion ac­quis­i­tion of What­s­App might come with some red tape after all.

The Elec­tron­ic and Pri­vacy In­form­a­tion Cen­ter and the Cen­ter for Di­git­al Demo­cracy filed a com­plaint with the Fed­er­al Trade Com­mis­sion on Thursday ob­ject­ing to the so­cial net­work’s pro­posed pur­chase on grounds that it could vi­ol­ate the pri­vacy pro­tec­tions users of the pop­u­lar mes­saging plat­form pre­vi­ously as­sumed they pos­sessed.

“What­s­App users could not reas­on­ably have an­ti­cip­ated that by se­lect­ing a pro-pri­vacy mes­saging ser­vice, they would sub­ject their data to Face­book’s data-col­lec­tion prac­tices,” the com­plaint reads. “The pro­posed ac­quis­i­tion will there­fore vi­ol­ate What­s­App users’ un­der­stand­ing of their ex­pos­ure to on­line ad­vert­ising and con­sti­tutes an un­fair and de­cept­ive trade prac­tice.”

What­s­App users have been prom­ised that the com­pany would “not re­tain or re­pur­pose in­form­a­tion col­lec­ted from their mo­bile phones,” ac­cord­ing to the brief, a guar­an­tee that doesn’t square with Face­book’s mod­us op­erandi of col­lect­ing user data for ad­vert­isers. Un­der that as­sump­tion, What­s­App users may have shared more per­son­al in­form­a­tion that they would prefer Face­book have ac­cess to, the com­plaint charges.

The com­plaint ad­di­tion­ally calls on the FTC to halt Face­book’s ac­quis­i­tion un­til a prop­er re­view of the pri­vacy is­sues are car­ried out, and to in­su­late What­s­App user data from Big Blue’s data-col­lec­tion prac­tices.

“We don’t know or have any way of know­ing what Face­book and What­s­App have agreed to do with user data oth­er than what they have rep­res­en­ted pub­licly,” said Ju­lia Hor­witz, a staff at­tor­ney with EPIC.

Pri­or to the deal, What­s­App res­ol­utely re­fused to run ads on its ser­vice, a perk that fol­low­ers say helped give rise to its enorm­ous pop­ular­ity. Some fans of the plat­form have ex­pressed dis­may that their data will be shared for the use of tar­geted ad­vert­ising.

“Face­book’s goal is to bring more con­nectiv­ity and util­ity to the world by de­liv­er­ing core In­ter­net ser­vices ef­fi­ciently and af­ford­ably — this part­ner­ship will help make that hap­pen,” the com­pany said in a state­ment. “As we have said re­peatedly, What­s­App will op­er­ate as a sep­ar­ate com­pany and will hon­or its com­mit­ments to pri­vacy and se­cur­ity.”

The Menlo Park, Cal­if.-based com­pany an­nounced it had pur­chased the five-year-old What­s­App, which boasts 450 mil­lion users and a soar­ing growth rate of a mil­lion more each day, last month for a hu­mong­ous price tag of $19 bil­lion that shocked most ob­serv­ers, some of whom were un­fa­mil­i­ar with a mes­saging ser­vice that is far more pop­u­lar over­seas than it is in the United States.

Rival com­pan­ies, in­clud­ing Google and Mi­crosoft, have sug­ges­ted that Face­book grossly over­val­ued the mo­bile app.

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
7 REPUBLICANS ON STAGE
Carly Fiorina Will Not Be Allowed to Debate on Saturday
2 days ago
THE LATEST

ABC News has announced the criteria for Saturday’s Republican debate, and that means Carly Fiorina won’t be a part of it. The network is demanding candidates have “a top-three finish in Iowa, a top-six standing in an average of recent New Hampshire polls or a top-six placement in national polls in order for candidates to qualify.” And there will be no “happy hour” undercard debate this time. “So that means no Fiorina vs. Jim Gilmore showdown earlier in the evening for the most ardent of campaign 2016 junkies.

Source:
×