Facebook has stopped collecting WhatsApp user data across Europe, the Financial Times reports, bowing to pressure from privacy watchdogs across the continent. The shift in policy means that European users of the messaging app will no longer have information — including phone numbers — relayed to Facebook, but the social network says it may only be a temporary suspension while the laws are debated.
“We hope to continue our detailed conversations with the UK Information Commissioner’s Office and other data protection officials,” Facebook says, confirming that it “remain[s] open to working collaboratively to address their questions.” Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, but only started to collect data from its users in August this year. That move drew criticism from Europe’s data collection authorities, 28 of whom signed an open letter sent last month in which they urged WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum to suspend data collection until the legality was worked out.
The Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s office — Facebook’s European regulatory body — confirmed to the Financial Times that Facebook had indeed suspended European data collection last week. The company had already been ordered to halt the practice in Germany: German authorities ruled that the collection of app data constituted "an infringement of national data protection law,” and also demanded that Facebook delete all data that had already been obtained on the country’s 35 million WhatsApp users. Other countries, including the UK, France, and Italy, have their own ongoing investigations into Facebook’s data collection.