When WhatsApp announced that it will begin to share more information with Facebook, it was met with concern by one analyst who claimed it could be a ‘betrayal of trust’. Now the UK’s Information Commissioner (ICO) is looking further into the messaging apps decision to share more data.

WhatsApp said its new update would share phone numbers with its parent company, Facebook, in order to offer better friend suggestions and tailor advertisements to each individual user.

In a blog post, the popular instant messaging app said it will also allow users to communicate with businesses “without third-party banner ads and spam”.

The ICO now want to investigate what data is being shared as it will affect a lot of people.

Elizabeth Denham, information commissioner, said although organisations do not get to get prior consent from ICO, they do need to stay within data protection laws.

She added: “Some might consider it’ll give them a better service, others may be concerned by the lack of control.

“Our role is to pull back the curtain on things like this, ensuring that companies are being transparent with the public about how their personal data is being shared, and protecting consumers by making sure the law is being followed.”

The ICO can fine an organisation up to £500,000 if they break the Data Protection Act.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) has recently found that 92% of consumers don’t fully understand where and how marketers, brands and organisations use their personal information for data.

In a new report, the CIM found that one third of individuals have no idea about where and how their personal data is being used. More than half of survey respondents (57%) say they do not trust an organisation to use their data responsibly and the biggest worry is that their information may be passed onto others without their consent (40%).

Chris Daly, CIM chief executive, has outlined how marketers and businesses can support customers in a blog post:

  • Be straight with people– there is a lot of confusion when it comes to data. Marketers should champion consumers and tell them when they plan to collect data, why they wish to do so and what they intend to do with it. This should be communicated in a clear and open manner across all forms of data capture.
  • Articulate the benefits– if marketers can demonstrate the positive benefits of their data collection to the consumer, and what it will enable them to do such as sharing topical and relevant products and services, then they may be able to gain more buy-in from consumers to extend this.
  • Show you respect customer data – trust, honesty and transparency needs to be at the heart of the relationship between marketers and their customers. It's clear that the topic of data really matters to consumers, and they want reassurance that marketers are using it securely, and most of all, responsibly.
  • Gain an understanding of data dos and don'ts– marketers should continually familiarise themselves with consumers’ data rights and the law. Introducing training across an organisation should help to make the correct data approach and procedures the responsibility of the whole business, and a development priority for all staff. Similarly, consumers should also better understand their data protection rights.