EU Investigates WhatsApp's Data-Sharing Policies

WhatsApp's new user agreement, which allows it to share user data with its parent company Facebook, prompted European Union regulators this week to open antitrust investigations into the company.

The EU's data protection authority wrote an open letter to WhatsApp on Thursday, explaining that it has "serious concerns" over how data could be shared. The letter explains that a revision to the popular messaging app's user agreement states that WhatsApp can share user information within the "Facebook family of companies" for a range of purposes that include marketing and advertising.

"These changes have been introduced in contradiction with previous public statements of the two companies ensuring that no sharing of data would ever take place," according to the agency's letter. It asks WhatsApp to provide more information about what kinds of data are being shared with Facebook so that regulators can determine whether or not the sharing violates EU laws.

In addition to the EU, individual European countries have also expressed concern about the changes. Italy's antitrust regulator opened a probe into whether or not the data sharing is "unfair" to users, according to Reuters. WhatsApp faces a maximum fine of approximately $5.5 million if the investigation finds the data sharing violates Italian law.

A WhatsApp spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that the company is working with regulators to address their concerns.

In a separate letter to Yahoo this week, European authorities also requested more information about the company's recent data breach and revelations that it scanned customers' incoming emails at the request of US intelligence services, the Journal reports. Yahoo has denied the scanning, saying that it interprets every government request for user data "to minimize disclosure."

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