Facebook has once again gotten itself into trouble. As is so often the case, this time too it’s about the – for Facebook – vexed topic of WhatsApp data protection. Hamburg’s data protection commissioner Johannes Caspar has initiated proceedings against the tech company.

Criticism about data protection at WhatsApp: What’s at stake?

The focus is on the new terms of use of Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp. Caspar wants to prevent the parent company from collecting data from WhatsApp users for its own purposes.

However, the data protectors must hurry – because the new terms of use are to come into force as early as mid-May. That’s why Caspar’s agency is planning an urgent procedure. A decision is to be made before May 15.

The basis is the European General Data Protection Regulation, which keeps getting in Facebook’s way. The abbreviation DSGVO is probably already hanging out of the ears of those responsible.

WhatsApp is now used by almost 60 million people in Germany and is by far the most-used social media application, ahead of Facebook.

Caspar suspects that Facebook and WhatsApp are abusing their data power. There is reason to believe that the data sharing provisions between WhatsApp and Facebook are illegal, he said.

Data protection at WhatsApp – the sticking point

One thing in particular is problematic about the new terms of use: Facebook wants to open WhatsApp to its advertising customers. Users who have seen products on Facebook itself or its subsidiary Instagram should therefore also receive advertising on WhatsApp.

Those who do not agree to the new terms of use will be given a grace period. For what Facebook called a “short time” in February, certain applications will continue to be available.

Thus, users:inside can continue to receive calls and notifications. However, they will no longer be able to read messages or send them themselves.

If they subsequently agree, all functions can be used again. With this carrot-and-stick approach, Facebook hopes to prevent a major wave of churn.

The fear is probably justified, because after the announcement of the new conditions in January, competitors like Signal and Telegram recorded an abrupt increase in the number of users.

This is how WhatsApp and Facebook react

With the new terms of use, messages sent on the Messenger service should remain private. A WhatsApp spokesperson referred to the changes, which are intended to make it clearer how the group collects or uses data.

Facebook now wants to examine the accusations of the Hamburg data protection commissioner. Johannes Caspar’s office is offering the company the opportunity to comment at a hearing.