back to article What's up, Zuck? FTC to probe Facebook for WhatsApp phone number mega-slurp

Facebook is facing an FTC probe after snatching millions of people's phone numbers from its WhatsApp subsidiary. Privacy rights warriors at EPIC have asked the US watchdog to investigate the personal data grab – and the commission says it will look into the matter. In a letter published by EPIC [PDF], the FTC told the privacy …

  1. Mage Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Bright Side

    At least our new Social Media overlords don't sent us to Gulags, Vietnam War, Internment Camps, or "Work makes you free" slave factories.

    Just examine our privates and spam us.

    1. Alistair Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Bright Side

      @ Mage

      ........................... yet.

      1. Grade%

        Re: Bright Side

        Re: "....... yet."

        Damn mind readers are everywhere.

        I'd like to get off this slippery ding dang slope.

        1. 45RPM

          Re: Bright Side

          @Grade%

          Easily done. Just stop using Google and Facebook, the latter being easier than the former. I've quit Facebook and my life has improved immeasurably (no longer fiddling around checking for updates, I spend the time in the real world instead). Google is more useful than Facebook, so I'm not ready to go cold-turkey on them yet - but I could if I wanted (there are other options - Duck Duck Go, email from other providers and so forth). I trust Google marginally more than Facebook though. For the time being.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bright Side

      They don't need to send anyone to internment camps if they can get them to voluntarily sit in their basement staring at a screen 24x7.

    3. BillG
      WTF?

      Re: Bright Side

      At least our new Social Media overlords don't sent us to Gulags, Vietnam War, Internment Camps, or "Work makes you free" slave factories.

      What's your point - that makes Zuk's privacy ripping alright then?

  2. J. R. Hartley

    Facebook's creepiness knows no bounds

    Anybody who uses Whatsapp or Instagram probably needs their head checked.

    I am still just about using Fakebook, but ditched the app long ago, and never give them any info they don't need to know.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Facebook's creepiness knows no bounds

      You don't have to "give" them info. They take what they want. They probably know more about you than you think they do. They probably know a lot about those of us who have never even started an FB account from what the reports on this and other sites state. That little innocent "Like Us" button on many sites... it's a clue.

      1. J. R. Hartley

        Re: Facebook's creepiness knows no bounds

        Well they don't have my name, my address, or my phone number. So what do they REALLY know?

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Facebook's creepiness knows no bounds

          If your friends call you from their phone and they have the app... that's the start point. A quick reverse lookup (automated?) will give them other info. It's not just you... it's everyone else who knows you.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Facebook's creepiness knows no bounds

          Everything that can be inferred.

          All that info your friends sparf up leaves a you-shaped hole.

          1. Nixinkome

            Re: Facebook's creepiness knows no bounds

            AC, "sparf", a new word to me. I like it and its context.

            1. Slx

              Re: Facebook's creepiness knows no bounds

              It's a vile mix of spewing and barfing simultaneously.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Facebook's creepiness knows no bounds

          Well they don't have my name, my address, or my phone number. So what do they REALLY know?

          Thanks to your use of WhatsApp they also have your FRIEND's details, but without their permission or knowledge. Add to that that for most users blocking SMS is all but impossible, and it's easy to see why any ad-dependent data thief would want those details. Google, LinkedIn and Facebook all have been grabbing mobile numbers as fast as they could get them, ostensibly "for our security" (yeah, right). Zuckerberg simply bought himself more direct access to your address book with WhatsApp, because that keeps him up to date on changes and updates too.

          This backdoor grabbing of personal details is IMHO one of the largest holes in Data Protection and privacy regulation. They don't have to ask permission, and they have no obligation to inform you that they have grabbed your details until you ask them directly (and at that point they can simply lie, because who is going to say differently - only Facebook is now exposed because all you have to do is find a friend who uses WhatsApp).

          I never installed WhatsApp for the exact reason that my address book has phone numbers of rather interesting people who would not appreciate anyone leaking their number, but Zuck will have that number if anyone else in their circle of contacts has installed WhatsApp.

          What's more: install it on a BUSINESS phone without gaining permission of all the customers you have in your phone address book and you may very well be in breach of the Data Protection Act as you have not informed customers beforehand that you're going to share your details with Zuckerberg...

  3. Down not across

    Numbers which have been collected without their holders' approval

    Made worse by the fact that you don't even have to use Whatsapp. If someone who has your number uses it, they've already sucked your number from their device without your approval.

    1. scrubber
      Devil

      Re: Numbers which have been collected without their holders' approval

      "someone who has your number uses it"

      I can only hope that I'm a big enough PITA that they have me in as some epithet rather than my real name.

      1. Mystic Megabyte
        Happy

        Re: Numbers which have been collected without their holders' approval

        Yes, I have you listed as arsehole#6

    2. Tony Paulazzo

      Re: Numbers which have been collected without their holders' approval

      If someone who has your number uses it, they've already sucked your number...

      Number, name, address, email, business and any notes they've written in their contact information - which facebook now also has.

  4. scrubber
    Black Helicopters

    but but but ...

    I recall Facebook and Whatsapp promise there would be no cross sharing of user info and anyone who thought otherwise was a paranoid freak

    A bit like how tasers were only ever going to be used in situations where officers would otherwise have had to use firearms.

    1. Mark 65

      Re: but but but ...

      History has shown though that officers are pretty liberal in their use of firearms.

  5. 101
    Big Brother

    Zuckered again...

    ...and again and again and again and...

    WhatsApp cost $16 billion dollars. It would be unrealistic to imagine FB would allow users to have any private data or communication at all.

    I must admit however, I sort of believed the part about end to end encryption for a short time. I am thinking it's the registration data that went down the rabbit hole, and not just phone numbers. Likely whatever users gave them.

    I do wonder how they are capturing, storing and monetizing actual communications. I suppose we will find out in due time.

    A Zucker-door?

  6. frank ly

    This is why ....

    .... I never give my mobile phone number to anyone unless I'd be happy for them to contact me anytime that my phone is not in Airplane mode. It's not just the phone calls, it's the texts. Even my mobile phone provider spammed me with text messages until I called them several times and told them to f**king well stop or I'd cancel the contract. Everybody else gets my landline number and they can wait and try again or leave a message if I'm not at home.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm safe

    No friends, you see!

  8. Winkypop Silver badge
    Joke

    I'm so anon...

    I'll have a blank headstone.

    1. fatbuddha

      Re: I'm so anon...

      ...with Winkypop written on it I presume. not that anon eh? :-)

      1. Winkypop Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: I'm so anon...

        No, I'm now thinking: " fatbuddha"

  9. FuzzyWuzzys
    Facepalm

    Have my mobile number, I couldn't give a toss quite frankly! I've made 3 phone calls in the last 4 months ( 2 to the local council ) and sent precisely 8 SMS messages, which were either "What's for tea love?" and "Any danger of a lift?". If you find the fact that that the owner of that mobile number likes Mexican food and is a fat lazy git who hates walking the mile home from the station ( to be frank, that's not diffuclt to work out from the two pieces of info!! ) then you have at it Zuck!

    1. scrubber
      Big Brother

      OK, so they now know that you have food with some number X, see that you travel with number Y and you have issues with the council (and probably which department). If the other people have location on then they know where you probably live, can see locations you may have visited. Using those other numbers they can find your possible extended group (true or not) and given your lack of communication you are a suspicious character and perhaps the police or other security services should be notified.

      Allah help you if any of those 3 hop relationships happen to be on some watchlist. How's the weather in Cuba this time of year?

  10. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Why the deafening silence from the EU on this?

    I'm surprised we haven't heard a peep from that side of the world. You'd think that after Facebook vs Europe/Max Schrems, Facebook would be on a probationary watch list.

    1. Guido Brunetti
      Go

      Re: Why the deafening silence from the EU on this?

      There is no silence at all. The EU commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager, is already looking into it and "talking to Facebook". Also, at least the German antitrust agency ("Bindeskartellamt") is doing an investigation of the issue, saying, "we have to look in the Facebook engine room to understand the implications for competition".

  11. Jess

    I used to use whatsapp a lot.

    I'm now moving to Telegram (and probably ICQ too).

    The ability to use Telegram on multiple devices and only having it tied to having the ability to receive an SMS, rather than an SMS on the single device you want to use it on is a major advantage. (e.g. personal Telegram on work phone, separating work and personal comms, on one device.)

    The reason I started to move was their plan to drop support for old phones. (Half the people I used it for will be cut off.)

    However the new privacy agreement has made me remove it from my phone, and put it on my old BlackBerry (until the end of the year), which has minimal contacts in the address book, and I didn't allow the app access to the contacts. This is just to catch any messages.

    1. Jeffrey Nonken

      Re: I used to use whatsapp a lot.

      ...And then there's Signal.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This bodes well...

    "the FTC told the privacy crusaders that it will follow in the footsteps of its UK counterparts..."

    Will that include the usual telling off delivered in a theatrically stern voice if they've been naughty?

  13. Tikimon
    Facepalm

    The anti-consumer nature of T&C, EULA, and Privacy Policy

    Funny how one-sided these have all become. Any promises made to the consumer aren't worth the electrons they're written on. They can be changed at any time in any way without notice or redress. Therefore, agreeing to one gives the company eternal and universal immunity, no matter what onerous things they do.

    However, WE are expected to be held to the letter of these incomprehensible, legalese-obscured "agreements", and threatened with fines or jail time if we transgress. WTF?

    Why aren't our law types working to stop this blatant BS?

    1. Alumoi

      Re: The anti-consumer nature of T&C, EULA, and Privacy Policy

      Get a couple of millions and have your goverment write the law the way you like it, as every serious corporation does.

  14. Not previously required

    Signal for me

    Open source, recommended by Snowden. Works a treat.

    On the downside it doesn't look as pretty as WhatsZuck and the Cool Young Things of my acquaintance resent my making them use it - but I'm the boss ...

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