Earlier this month, the Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection (“FTC”) sent a joint letter to Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook””) and WhatsApp Inc. (“WhatsApp”) in anticipation of Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp, an instant messaging service with hundreds of millions of users worldwide.
The FTC noted public statements and “clear promises” made by both Facebook and WhatsApp confirming that WhatsApp will operate as a separate company after the Facebook acquisition and will honor its privacy and security commitments to its users. The FTC cautioned the companies that the failure to keep promises made about privacy would constitute a deceptive trade practice under Section 5 of the FTC Act. It further stated that a company cannot use data in a manner that is materially inconsistent with promises that were made at the time of its collection without first obtaining affirmative express consent.
The FTC also reminded Facebook that it is bound by an FTC order that requires Facebook to obtain affirmative express consent before sharing users’ nonpublic information in a matter that “materially exceeds any privacy setting.”
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