The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has allowed Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp to go through, with the caveat that both companies’ users are to ensure their users’ privacy is securely maintained. The warning comes as no surprise, particularly since privacy and Facebook has never really gone hand in hand.
Should neither company follow through on their commitment to maintain their customers’ privacy, both could be in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act, and Facebook could be in further trouble, as the social media giant is also under an August 2012 order to maintain their users’ privacy and seek permission prior to its release. Both Facebook and WhatsApp have effectively been warned by the FTC that they will be watched as the deal has been given approval.
WhatsApp founder Jan Koum has already said that WhatsApp is committed to maintaining its privacy quality standards, as it is a part of the company’s DNA. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has insisted that WhatsApp will be functioning as a fairly independent entity under the Facebook umbrella.
In the FTC press release, both Facebook and WhatsApp were told that they are not to misrepresent the extent to which the privacy or security of user data is maintained. Also, the two companies are to ensure that consumers have the opportunity to opt out of any of the ways that user data may be collected in the future. Both Facebook and WhatsApp are also to ensure they get affirmative consent prior to making changes to their policies or how user data is collected.
Both companies also need to ensure they are maintaining the security of user data in addition to maintaining users’ privacy. EPIC was one of the companies involved in filing an FTC complaint against the two companies, and the FTC ruled that the two companies will have to play by the FTC’s rules or they will face sanctions of some sort in the future.
Facebook has already been on the FTC radar as a result of privacy concerns; Zuckerberg tried to allay those fears when it came to Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp. “They do not keep the content you send, and we’re not going to change that,” he said.
That piece of news is no doubt alleviating concerns across the globe for every Facebook and WhatsApp user. It also means that marketers are going to have to watch exactly how they use the two social media companies to effectively promote their company and their business. While no marketer has likely been known for using their clients’ personal information in order to promote their business, there are possibilities that could happen, and one thing is certain: the Federal Trade Commission will be watching Facebook and WhatsApp with equal scrutiny.