The German data protection regulator on Facebook is blocking the social network from processing personal data from Whats App users because it considers new messaging app rules illegal, it said on Tuesday.
The decision follows urgent action taken by an administrator in the city of Hamburg last month after WhatsApp required users to agree to new terms or stop using the service.
“This directive is aimed at protecting the rights and freedoms of millions of users who provide for use policies throughout Germany,” said Hamburg data protection officer Johannes Caspar.
“My goal is to prevent the evil and damage associated with that black box process.”
Caspar, who is leading Facebook’s domestic administration under the German government’s program as the country’s office is in Hamburg, announced his decision ahead of the May 15 deadline to approve new WhatsApp policies.
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WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, said the action taken by the Hamburg data protection authority was based on a major misunderstanding of the purpose and effect of its renewal and therefore had no legal basis.
“As the Hamburg DPA claims are wrong, this order will not affect the use of continuous renewal. We are fully committed to providing a secure and confidential communication for everyone,” a WhatsApp spokesman said.
The regulatory action has opened up a new opportunity in Germany over Facebook’s privacy policies, with its national anti-terrorism regulator fighting a legal battle over data practices that he says is a violation of market dominance.
As of 2018, online privacy is subject to the European Union’s governing body, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Under the GDPR, Ireland leads Facebook’s dominance because European company headquarters are present.
Caspar said he was using his powers to enforce a three-month suspension on Facebook’s WhatsApp user profile data under the unconventional power predicted by the GDPR.
He said he would also seek a decision from the EU-based European Data Protection Board, a forum that would bring together regulators from 27 member states.