Facebook was ordered to stop the automatic sharing of data with WhatsApp on December 2017. Reuters/Toby Melville

It’s happened once and it’s happening again. Facebook has just been ordered to stop the automatic transfer of user data from WhatsApp to its social network platform. This is the third time that Mark Zuckerberg’s company was hit by a formal notice against its data sharing terms with WhatsApp.

Early this week, France’s Chair of the National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) issued a formal notice to Facebook, ordering the latter to change its ways and get consent from WhatsApp users first if they want their personal data transferred to Facebook’s site or app.

At present, Facebook automatically collects user data from WhatsApp and this is something that violates “the fundamental freedom of users,” according to CNIL. So now the French authority wants Facebook to obtain consent from French users first before it transfers their data to its social network’s database.

CNIL indicated in its formal notice that though it agrees with Facebook that linking data with WhatsApp can improve security, it isn’t pleased with the “business intelligence” aspect of this feature for this allows Facebook to easily collect user data from WhatsApp. The authority also noted that WhatsApp, for its part, failed to provide a sample of the French users’ data that it has shared with Facebook.

CNIL now puts the pressure on Facebook to make things right, and it is giving the company one month to change its ways and comply with the formal notice. CNIL implied that by ordering this, it wants to preserve the interest of French users and their freedom to refuse the data transfer. Furthermore, CNIL also pointed out that users’ phone numbers and their habits on the application are being shared with WhatsApp.

It is worth noting that back when Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, the social media giant said it won’t be sharing its users data with the latter. Surprisingly, Facebook had a change of heart last year when it modified WhatsApp’s terms of service to allow the linking of WhatsApp and Facebook profiles of users.

Though Facebook has provided users with an option to opt out of the linking feature, some regulators were still skeptical. Last September, Germany ordered Facebook to stop collecting data from WhatsApp. The U.K. also asked for the same thing a couple of months later. Now France is the latest European country to slap Facebook with the same order, as pointed out by Clotheshorse.

Should Facebook fail to comply with the French regulator’s formal notice, an internal investigation will be conducted and the committee responsible for examining breaches of the Data Protection Act could issue a sanction against Zuckerberg’s company.