Continental bans social media use over data protection fears

June 8, 2018

ContinentalCiting data privacy concerns, German technology company Continental has banned its employees from using WhatsApp and Snapchat on company-issued mobile devices over concerns that the apps may leak confidential information to third parties.

The company said the apps “have deficiencies when it comes to data protection, as they access a users’ personal and potentially confidential data such as contacts, and thus the information of third parties who are not involved.”

The ban applies to its 240,000 employees in 61 countries and affects more than 36,000 mobile phones, said the Hannover-based firm.

Data privacy has become an all important topic in Europe as companies rush to comply with Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which governs how data collectors gather and use the information gathered. It also gives companies and organisations that collect and store personal information more liability in the event of a breach.

GDPR, which came into force in May this year, mandates that consumers have to be informed who is gathering their data, such as names, addresses, email addresses and ID numbers, and that they must agree for it to be used.

A company that violates GDPR standards risks fines of up to EUR20 million or up to 4% of its annual global revenue.

Continental said it was prepared to “lift this ban,” provided WhatsApp and Snapchat “change the basic settings to ensure that their apps comply with data-protection regulations by default.” In a ‘privacy by default’ mode, the basic setting is such that the user doesn’t allow the app to store its data.

WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired in 2014 for around US$22 billion, has more than 1.3 billion users worldwide.

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