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US regulators approve Facebook’s acquisition of Whatsapp

shutterstock_177177047-600x400Unites States regulators have approved Facebook’s acquisition of instant messaging (IM) platform WhatsApp for US$16 billion, despite opposition by privacy groups, according to a report.

Reuters reports the acquisition has been approved, although a stern warning has also been issued from the regulators.

In February, Facebook’s intented to purchase the IM service, with the social network’s chief executive officer (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg saying the acquisition was aimed at “[making] the world more open and connected”.

However, the American-based Electronic Privacy Information Centre urged the United States’ Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the move, saying the social media giant planned on incorporating personal information from the messaging service into its profiling business model.

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum denied the accusations, claiming the speculation was careless and unfounded, resulting in fearmongering targeted at its user base.

Unfortunately, there has also been a lot of inaccurate and careless information circulating about what our future partnership would mean for WhatsApp users’ data and privacy, said Koum.

In light of regulatory approval, the FTC has notified both Facebook and WhatsApp about their “obligations to protect the privacy of their users”.

“We want to make clear that, regardless of the acquisition, WhatsApp must continue to honour these promises to consumers. Further, if the acquisition is completed and WhatsApp fails to honor these promises, both companies could be in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act and, potentially, the FTC’s order against Facebook,” the FTC’s letter states.

Facebook settled FTC charges in 2011, stating the company deceived consumers by failing to keep its privacy promises. The order said Facebook was obliged to get users’ consent before changing privacy settings.

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