Facebook and Yahoo data collection draw ire of European Union

Facebook's decision to begin collecting data from WhatsApp users has already drawn a negative reaction in Germany, but now the entire European Union is getting in on the action. Today, the European Commission's Article 29 Working Party has told Facebook to stop collecting that data as it carries out an investigation into these new policies.

Facebook's decision to begin collecting WhatsApp user data has caused a fair amount of controversy ever since these new privacy policies were revealed back in August. Plenty of privacy watchdogs have shared their (usually negative) feelings on the matter since then. Now, however, it seems that the Article 29 Working Party is moving to perform an actual investigation into whether or not the privacy policy change was acceptable.

A particular point of difficulty for the Party is that Facebook's decision to begin collecting data wasn't included in the terms of service when existing users signed up for WhatsApp. Indeed, WhatsApp and Facebook did seem to spring these changes on us. Facebook's influence on user data has been a concern ever since it purchased WhatsApp in 2014, and even though Facebook waited a couple of years to change things up, that hasn't done much to soften the blow.

Facebook isn't the only company the Party has in its sights. It also told Yahoo that it needs to inform affected users from that massive 2014 email data breach. Going one step further, it expressed concern over Yahoo allegedly snooping on users' emails on behalf of the US government.

What the Party will ultimately do remains to be seen. Given the reactions both Facebook and Yahoo have been eliciting lately, it's not exactly surprising to see the Commission send out these warnings. Whether or not Facebook or Yahoo decide to shape up, though, is another thing entirely.

SOURCE: Bloomberg