“WhatsApp is now used by almost 60 million people in Germany and is by far the most widely used social media application, even ahead of Facebook,” said Hamburg’s data protection officer Johannes Casper. “We have reason to believe that the data sharing policy between WhatsApp and Facebook is being impermissibly enforced due to the lack of voluntary and informed consent.”
Casper said he was starting a formal procedure “to prevent an illegal mass exchange of data,” intending to decide before May 15.
In response to the growing policy concerns, Facebook said, “To be clear, by accepting WhatsApp’s updated terms of service, users are not agreeing to any expansion of our ability to share data with Facebook, and the update does not impact the privacy of their messages with friends or family wherever they are in the world.”
Facebook will have the opportunity to respond to the concerns at a hearing, the regulator said.
Users have become increasingly aware of how their data is being used in chat applications. Many users are opting to move to more privacy-focused chat apps such as Telegram and Signal.