For many companies, particularly technology companies, the data they gather is often their biggest asset. As people are prepared to share more and more information about their lives online, it would seem like there is an inexhaustible seam of data ready to be mined and exploited.
However, in the UK, we have stringent rules about when data can be used and shared. Facebook and Whatsapp have recently been the subject of a stinging rebuke from the Information Commissioner over the controversial sharing of information between them. While their terms and conditions may allow it (and who ever reads them!), the ICO indicated that this was not enough and specific consent was required.
While Facebook and Whatsapp are still to confirm their position, they will be mindful of the fact that breach of data protection legislation carries significant penalties, including large fines.
"We think consumers deserve a greater level of information and protection, but so far Facebook and WhatsApp haven't agreed. If Facebook starts using the data without valid consent, they may face enforcement action from my office," Ms Denham concluded. "We all rely on digital services for important parts of our lives, whether it's keeping in touch with loved ones or doing our weekly shop. But our digital comings and goings create rich portraits of our lives, and vague terms of service when we sign up aren't giving us the protection we need."