The corporate narrative around WhatsApp's obscurity-to-billions story centers around values. The company's founders, we're told, respect our privacy above all else—except $19 billion dollars from a company no one trusts to respect our privacy. Now one group is asking for government intervention.
EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center) has filed a complaint with the FTC, the Washington Post reports, saying hundreds of millions of users exchanging an unfathomable number of private messages shouldn't just take WhatsApp's word for it when they say Facebook won't tap its data. Come on, just trust us is about as reassuring in the software industry as Don't be evil. WhatsApp users didn't expect Facebook to own WhatsApp (and their data), so further safeguards are required, says EPIC:
By failing to make special provisions to protect user data in the event of an acquisition, WhatsApp "unreasonably creates or takes advantage of an obstacle to the free exercise of consumer decisionmaking."... Specifically, WhatsApp users could not reasonably have anticipated that by selecting a pro-privacy messaging service, they would subject their data to Facebook's data collection practices.
On these grounds, the group wants a federal investigation:
EPIC got its way with the feds last time after pointing out potential privacy nightmares around Google Buzz—and just think, people actually use WhatsApp! Four hundred and fifty million of them. You can hear Facebook licking its lips.