Data Protection & Privacy

Emergency proceedings against Facebook in Germany

On Tuesday, 13th April 2021, the German Supervisory Authority, Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, issued a statement that it will take action against social media giant, Facebook. This action is to prevent the collection of personal data from users of its WhatsApp messaging app.

Moreover, Facebook is already facing legal scrutiny by German antitrust regulators over its social media dominating behavior in data market.


On January 4th, 2021, WhatsApp announced an updated privacy policy. According to the new policy, WhatsApp will share WhatsApp users’ data including name, IP address, phone number, and contacts with its parent company, Facebook.

On this move, Facebook faced backlash from WhatsApp users, privacy advocates, and governments across the globe including India. Many Facebook users left the platform and migrated to platform like Telegram and Signal.

Emergency proceedings against Facebook by the German regulator

The supervisory authority has already opened emergency proceedings against Facebook. This comes after WhatsApp announced that users will need to give consent to the privacy policy. The only option users have to opt out of this privacy policy is to stop using the platform.

“We have reason to believe that the data sharing policy between WhatsApp and Facebook is being impermissibly enforced due to the lack of voluntary and informed consent,” said Johannes Casper, Data Protection Officer, Federal State Hamburg, Germany.

He added that he opened a formal administrative procedure “to prevent an illegal mass exchange of data”, and seeks for an “immediate enforcement order” on this before May 15. May 15 is the deadline to accept the new disputed privacy policy or stop using the services.

Facebook’s response

In response to this, a WhatsApp spokesperson said “Our recent update includes new options, people will have to message a business on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.

He further added “To be clear, by accepting WhatsApp’s updated terms of service, users are not agreeing to any expansion in our ability to share data with Facebook. Also, the update does not impact the privacy of their messages with friends or family.”

Probe in India over new privacy policy of WhatsApp

In India, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) ordered a probe against Facebook. CCI alleged that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy is an abuse of dominance, prima facie. Following this WhatsApp challenged the order in the Delhi High Court.

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy does not give any choice to their users but to share their data with Facebook. This sort of dominating behavior is not good for WhatsApp users. There are apprehensions that WhatsApp may exploit its dominating position in the future too. It could limit the options further for its users in the future too.

For a fact, the updated privacy policy for European Union and India are different but this is the common issue with both.

To know what data Facebook processes on you, click here.

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Adv. Bhagyashree Swami

Bhagyashree is a qualified advocate practicing in criminal/ cyber law and a certified CIPP/ E data protection professional. She has a great academic record with a LLM degree in Computer and Communication Laws from Queen Mary University of London. She also holds technical expertise in the area of digital forensics and investigation.

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