Can FTC Really Block Facebook’s Acquisition of Whatsapp?

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When Facebook acquired Whatsapp last month, a lot of people became very uncomfortable with the idea of the extreme control the former would have over online networking.

When Facebook acquired Whatsapp last month, a lot of people became very uncomfortable with the idea of the extreme control the former would have over online networking.

Netizens murmured a little at the time but that as far as it went. But now, two privacy groups have stepped up and taken their reservations to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for Digital Democracy requested the FTC not to approve Facebook's planned $19 billion takeover because of its history of using user data to make advertising money.

They argued that at the time of signing up, Whatsapp users weren't informed that their personal information could one day be shared with another network that has a billion plus users. And even though both Mark Zuckerburg and Jan Koum have repeatedly said that the two services will remain separate entities, skeptics are not buying that.

Whatsapp, when on its own, never used the users' data to make money. In fact, they never really focused on the monetization of their app and never stored user data for their personal gains.

Facebook, on the other hand, not only uses the info of its own users, but it also changed Instagram's privacy policy when buying it in 2011 so as to profit from its user data. Hence, EPIC and CDD's fears are justified.

"WhatsApp users could not reasonably have anticipated that by selecting a pro-privacy messaging service, they would subject their data to Facebook’s data-collection practices," said EPIC attorney Julia Horwitz.

While the complaints are unlikely to stop the deal from happening, FTC could make Facebook give stronger assurances just like it did with Google a while ago.

Recommended: How WhatsApp Took Its Founders From Food Stamps And Rejection To $19 Billion

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