The two companies announced last month that WhatsApp would start handing over data about its users to Facebook. Facebook would then use that data to help its ads, generating more information about the people using it.
That agreement caused huge outrage, with many people arguing that such an arrangement shouldn’t be allowed. What’s more, it caused embarrassment for WhatsApp, which has in the past committed to keeping data private and not using its platform for ads.
Those criticisms have now been echoed by the Hamburg data protection commissioner, which has issued an administrative order that officially bans Facebook from sharing information with WhatsApp across Germany.
The order “prohibits Facebook with immediate effect to collect and store data of German WhatsApp users”, according to a statement from the watchdog. “Facebook is also ordered to delete all data that has already been forwarded by WhatsApp,” it said.
“This administrative order protects the data of about 35 million WhatsApp users in Germany,” said Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg commissioner for data protection and freedom of information, in a statement. “It has to be their decision, whether they want to connect their account with Facebook. Therefore, Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance. This has not happened.”
Mr Caspar pointed out that many users might not even have given their permission to either Facebook or WhatsApp.