UK privacy watchdog ends WhatsApp probe after compliance pledge

File photo showing a facebook at a conference in Brussels, Belgium Jan 23, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 14 March 2018
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UK privacy watchdog ends WhatsApp probe after compliance pledge

LONDON: Britain’s privacy watchdog said it had dropped an investigation into WhatsApp after the messaging service signed an undertaking not to share the personal data of users with its owner Facebook.
The decision by Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham means WhatsApp, which has 1.5 billion monthly users, will not be fined and that any future sharing of user data would be governed by European privacy rules that enter into force in May.
“I am pleased to state that WhatsApp has now signed an ‘undertaking’ wherein they have given a public commitment not to share personal data with Facebook,” Denham said in a blog post on Wednesday.
The decision marks an important resolution for Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, which is under fire in the United States over the propagation of so-called ‘fake news’ during campaigning for the 2016 presidential election.
Facebook is also under scrutiny over its handling of user data to target online advertising — a business that it, together with Google, has come to dominate globally.

The UK privacy authority opened its probe in Aug. 2016 after WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for $19 billion in 2014, updated its privacy policies to say that it would share information with the Facebook ‘family’ of companies.
The reasons given were to help to improve services, fight spam and improve user experiences — including making product suggestions and showing relevant offers and advertisements.
At the time, data protection officials expressed concern that users of WhatsApp were not being fully informed about how their data was being used nor their consent sought.
Similar investigations are under way in Germany where the country’s main anti-trust office, the Federal Cartel Office, has found that Facebook abused its dominant position in its handling of user data — including from its online properties WhatsApp and Instagram.
France’s data privacy watchdog said in December that it might fine WhatsApp if it does not comply with an order to bring its sharing of user data with Facebook into line with French privacy law.
Denham said that she had been assured by WhatsApp that no data had been shared with Facebook other than as a data processor — in line with a pledge that was given after the UK probe was opened.
“WhatsApp cares deeply about the privacy of our users. We collect very little data and every message is end-to-end encrypted,” said a WhatsApp spokesperson in response to the UK decision.
“As we’ve repeatedly made clear for the last year we are not sharing data in the ways that the UK Information Commissioner has said she is concerned about anywhere in Europe.”


Saudi Arabia ‘has a case’ in complaint over World Cup ‘politicization’ by Qatar’s BeIN

Updated 19 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia ‘has a case’ in complaint over World Cup ‘politicization’ by Qatar’s BeIN

  • Broadcast of political messages in coverage forbidden, analyst confirms.
  • Saudi football federation urges FIFA to sanction the Doha-owned channel.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has a justified case in complaining to FIFA over the “politicization” of the World Cup by the Qatari broadcaster BeIN Sports, a prominent TV analyst has said.
A flurry of comments by hosts and pundits aired on BeIN’s Arabic station prompted the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to complain to FIFA this week, saying the broadcaster was using the football tournament to spread political messages aimed at insulting Saudi Arabia and its leaders.
In its complaint, the federation called on FIFA to take severe sanctions against the Qatari channel and to abolish the rights granted to the network.
One BeIN commentator accused Saudi Arabia of “selling out the Palestinian cause,” while a Doha-based international footballer invited on the channel was allowed to call for an end to the year-long boycott of Qatar by neighbors Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.
Constantinos Papavassilopoulos, principal TV research analyst at IHS Markit Technology, said that politicized coverage was expressly forbidden by world football’s governing body as well as the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
“FIFA and UEFA forbid the transmission of political messages during football matches for which they control the rights. It’s not only comments by the broadcasters — but even banners; everything (political) is forbidden,” the analyst told Arab News.
“So messages about Palestine, about political things, are not allowed.”
Papavassilopoulos said that if there is evidence of such cases, authorities in the Kingdom would be justified in taking the matter to FIFA.
“If there are video clips that show BeIN media personnel speaking against Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia has a case,” he said.
But whether FIFA will take any action against BeIN is another matter. Papavassilopoulos pointed to the fact that BeIN is a valued client of FIFA — it bought the rights to host the World Cup across the Middle East and North Africa — and that Qatar plans to host the tournament in 2022.
“BeIN media is a very good client for FIFA. And don’t forget that Qatar is the country that will host the 2022 World Cup,” he said. “It’s going to be very very hard for FIFA to impose penalties on BeIN media knowing that Qatar will hold the next World Cup.”
Some of the biggest names in Arab sport have signed a petition to protest against BeIN’s politicization of World Cup coverage, urging FIFA President Gianni Infantino to investigate the coverage.
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News.