[BERLIN] Facebook Inc, already under scrutiny in the US and the European Union for revisions to privacy policies for its WhatsApp messaging service, was ordered by Hamburg's privacy watchdog to stop processing data of German users of the chat service.
The social network also must delete any data it already has, Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, said Tuesday in a statement. There's no legal basis for Facebook to use information of WhatsApp customers, he said.
"This order protects the data of about 35 million WhatsApp users in Germany," Mr Caspar said. "It has to be their decision as to whether they want to connect their account with Facebook. Therefore, Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance. This has not happened."
Facebook's German press office didn't immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment.
Facebook said in August it would start using data from the messaging app to allow advertisers to better target those users on Facebook and Instagram, in addition to permitting businesses to send messages to WhatsApp users directly. The policy shift may help WhatsApp generate revenue, but also could irk users drawn to its strong stance on privacy.
The US Federal Trade Commission is reviewing a joint complaint from two consumer privacy groups filed in August claiming that Facebook's move violates US federal law banning unfair and deceptive practices.