German data protection authorities on Tuesday ordered Facebook to stop collecting and storing data, such as phone numbers, it has received from its subsidiary WhatsApp, citing privacy concerns.
Facebook had acquired the global messaging service in 2014 and also announced this summer that WhatsApp would begin sharing the phone numbers of its users with the social network as part of a program to synchronize the two businesses – in a bid to allow better targeted advertising and fight spam on the platform.
However, in a statement published on Tuesday, Germany’s privacy watchdog maintained that sharing WhatsApp user data with Facebook, constitutes “an infringement of national data protection law.”
According to Hamburg’s Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, Johannes Caspar, Facebook and WhatsApp had promised in the wake of the Silicon Valley giant’s 2014 acquisition of the messaging app that they would not share data.
He further stated that Facebook would be required to delete any data already received from WhatsApp in Germany.
“It has to be (the users’) decision whether they want to connect their account with Facebook,” Caspar said, adding that “Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance.”
Facebook, whose German operations are based in Hamburg, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.