NEW YORK (The Deal) -- The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday notified Facebook (FB) that it must honor privacy promises WhatsApp has made to its users after the social networking giant completes the $19 billion purchase of the mobile messaging company, although the admonition applies only to data WhatsApp has already collected.
Facebook is free to change WhatsApp's policies at any time in regards to data it may collect in the future.
According to the FTC, before making any material changes to how the companies use data already collected from WhatsApp subscribers, they must get affirmative consent from the users. In addition, the companies must not misrepresent the extent to which they maintain the privacy or security of user data. The FTC also urged the companies to give users the opportunity to opt out of any future changes to how newly-collected data is used.
FTC Consumer Protection Bureau Director Jessica Rich notified Facebook and WhatsApp via letter about their obligations to protect the privacy of their users in light of Facebook's proposed acquisition of WhatsApp.
Facebook officials said Thursday that the FTC has approved the acquisition without extending the review with a second request for information. The deal was announced in February.
In a letter to the two companies, Rich noted that WhatsApp has made clear privacy promises to consumers and that, "regardless of the acquisition, WhatsApp must continue to honor these promises to consumers."
She stressed if WhatsApp fails to honor these promises after the acquisition, the companies could be in violation of FTC Act's Section 5 prohibitions on unfair or deceptive methods of competition and, potentially, the FTC's previous order sanctioning Facebook for privacy violations.