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Facebook tightens WhatsApp user data as US privacy lags

“We cannot let the world’s largest company founded in the United States break their promise,” said Representative Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), Who led a push by Democrats. Some, to force Facebook to reverse, of course, said in an interview, “Facebook should keep their promises and that of the WhatsApp founders to pay more attention to user privacy.”

The conflict represents an escalating battle on the part of Congress to scrutinize the power of tech companies, even if the legislative component is in weapons.

Technology companies are growing and innovating faster than Washington law and leaders can move, and it is unclear how the new administration and Congress will catch up. Lawmakers̵

7; protracted stalemate over national privacy laws has opened the door for some of the tech world’s most influential players, including Facebook, Apple and Google, to self-regulate and write their own Playbooks to see how. How to share information between companies in the world.

WhatsApp and Facebook have long been exchanging valuable metadata – “information about data,” according to Trahan, which provides insights into consumer behavior and is of great importance to advertisers. But the growth of messaging apps in the United States early in the outbreak, coupled with tampering with antitrust kits and global investigations, pulled a new level of scrutiny on how it shares its data. More than two billion users across the Facebook ecosystem.

Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014 has become the main focus of antitrust by the FTC and lawyers in almost every state. These cases, which accuse Facebook of buying WhatsApp to prevent it from growing into a competitor to squeeze out users, are trying to force Facebook to quit WhatsApp and Instagram.Brazil and the EU are working on Facebook in connection with its data handling. WhatsApp users

And now users are asking Facebook for more power to use data on WhatsApp shopping behavior for advertising and marketing purposes.

The company stressed that the actual content of private messages remains end-to-end encrypted and not visible to Facebook or advertisers.

Public interest groups say Facebook mislead users by playing encryption protection.

“This is not about protecting privacy. But is this integration This is the opposite. “This is to reveal the tens of millions of WhatsApp users who use it for vital communications every day, so that the company can track and define what it means,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of advocacy group Center for Digital Democracy. Target them more effectively with advertising and marketing to increase profits. ”

Despite calls for regulatory scrutiny on Facebook and for the company to halt plans for WhatsApp, Washington was quick to focus on Silicon Valley’s privacy concerns. It passes federal data privacy laws, disrupted by anchors that are still far from revised, giving Facebook and other technology companies a space to set their own standards.

“We cannot let the industry rebuild a de facto privacy regime,” Chester said, “but because there is no privacy law because the FTC is seen as weak, basically anything is possible.”

While WhatsApp updates its global policy due to the EU’s privacy rules, known as general data protection regulations, it does not change WhatsApp’s data sharing practices in the European region.

In the absence of the law in the United States, many are looking at antitrust enforcement, including that Facebook could be eased as a gateway to start fixing privacy concerns.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), A mainstay on other WhatsApp issues, called for further antitrust scrutiny on its new privacy policy. WhatsApp

“I hope competition enforcement will keep a close eye on this as they examine how the biggest platform companies like Facebook try to seize their power, including mobile messaging.” He said

Others are looking for agency Trahan, a Hispanic Caucus Congressman, who has made a warning about a policy change disproportionately affecting Hispanic Americans using the app. There are additional resources for the Federal Trade Commission “to conduct merger investigations and bring privacy incidents to us. Avoid infringement of this type of data in the future “

And Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee, called for an investigation by the country’s chief consumer protection agency. New investigations into possible violations and put each executive accountable, “he said in an email.

But those paths may be distant in the future, and WhatsApp is changing its data practices right now. And experts worry that these policies that continue to hold on to in the US and around the world will be even more difficult to reverse.

Burcu Kilic, director of digital rights programs at Public Citizen advocacy group, said if global regulators were “more diligent” about Facebook’s deal to buy WhatsApp years ago, it would be an app to consider. To more privacy nowadays

“They didn’t see the broadest implications,” she said. “Now we end up with the apps we use, and for many, their lives depend on it – but we have to compromise on some of our data.”

Trahan, which represents one of the largest immigrant communities in Massachusetts, called the policy shift For them, WhatsApp is the lifeline of communicating with family members abroad, especially in Latin America, as traditional messaging is costly, she said.

“There was no other choice,” she said. “This is their style of communication with their loved ones abroad. You are choosing or you have no other way of communicating. “

Facebook said WhatsApp’s growth and the overwhelming adoption of the new terms show that they are prepared to cope with the change.

“Most of the people who get [the information] Has accepted the update and WhatsApp continues to grow, ”said WhatsApp spokesman Danielle Meister.

But some of the platform’s biggest competitors saw substantial growth before WhatsApp’s change took effect, suggesting an opposition to updates.A report from data analytics firm Sensor Tower found that WhatsApp usage dropped significantly. It’s been in the months since the privacy change was announced.

Facebook also said those who didn’t agree to the terms would not be suspended from WhatsApp on May 15, and that the platform would not be down for them, at least not. But more and more of those users are starting to see persistent messages to review and accept the updated policies and the apps will slowly stop working.

Some experts have described techniques such as “nagging,” “insisting, humiliating” or “intimidating users”.

“Consumers are tired of this,” said Lior Strahilevitz, a University of Chicago law professor who values ​​data privacy, at a recent FTC workshop. ‘Well, they’ll pick me up in the end, so I might as well agree.’ ‘

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