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US FTC approves Facebook buy of WhatsApp, with privacy caveats

updated 04:28 pm EDT, Thu April 10, 2014

WhatsApp must continue existing policy of not collecting user data

Social network giant Facebook said earlier today that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved the multi-billion-dollar acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp. As part of the deal, both companies must adhere to existing user privacy agreements, including a WhatsApp promise made while independent to not collect user personal data for targeted advertising.

FTC Director Jessica Rich declared that "if the acquisition is completed and WhatsApp fails to honor these promises, both companies could be in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act and, potentially, the FTC's order against Facebook," referring to agreements forged with the social network to avoid massive penalties. Rich added that "the FTC staff will continue to monitor the companies' practices to ensure that Facebook and WhatsApp honor the promises they have made to those users."

Facebook said in a statement that it was "pleased the FTC has completed its review and cleared our acquisition of WhatsApp. Naturally, both companies will continue to comply with all applicable laws after the transaction closes." The European Commission has yet to issue a ruling on whether it will allow the merger to continue.

Facebook's 2011 agreement with the FTC admits to a "bunch of mistakes" in the past. The mandate requires the company to get consent before making changes that override their privacy preferences, and prevented anyone from accessing Facebook information for up to 30 days of a user who deleted their account. A third-party audit of user privacy is required every two years, with the 2013 evaluation turning up some oddities. The next review is scheduled for 2015.

by MacNN Staff



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