WhatsApp co-founder backs calls for Facebook users to delete their profiles amid Cambridge Analytica data scandal

Hatty Collier
Mark Zuckerberg is being called on to explain Facebook's data protection procedures to MPs in person: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A co-founder of WhatsApp has backed calls for users to delete their profiles on Facebook amid the backlash against its handling of personal data.

Brian Acton tweeted: "It is time. #deletefacebook" as the hashtag trended amid growing outrage over the social media giant's links to controversial British data firm Cambridge Analytica (CA).

Along with WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum, Acton sold the app to Facebook for 19 billion dollars (£11.4 billion) in 2014.

The entrepreneur's apparent advocacy for people to remove their profiles came as Facebook faced pressure to explain its privacy safeguards from regulators and politicians in the US and UK.

CA was suspended from the social media giant last week after it emerged that data on 50 million users had not been destroyed as agreed.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg was called on to explain the company's data protection procedures to MPs in person.

Damian Collins, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee wrote to Mr Zuckerberg on Tuesday requesting that the firm explains the "catastrophic" failure.

The data firm suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix, after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that CA had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump.

On Monday, Downing Street released a statement calling the Facebook breach "very concerning", while MPs in the House of Commons voiced their concerns over interference in democracy.

Twenty-four hours later, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, who is investigating the use of personal data for political campaigns, confirmed she was seeking a warrant to access CA's systems after the firm failed to respond to an earlier demand.

Meanwhile in a statement, the CA board said that Mr Nix had been suspended "with immediate effect, pending a full, independent investigation".

It said comments by Mr Nix recorded in secret filming by Channel 4 News and "other allegations" did not represent "the values or operations of the firm" and that his suspension "reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation".

Every interaction on Facebook generates data, while users volunteer some information in their profile like their hometown and birthday.

Other data could be about interests gleaned from publicly "liking" content, while Facebook also knows where users log on to its site from, the device they use, and which ads they click on.

Users can see what info is shared with any app, and there are options to delete, limit the information each app can access and remove info collected by the app.

Deleting an app may still allow the developer to retain some of a user's personal information.

WhatsApp has itself been the subject of criticism by Governments and security services in recent years for providing a means for criminals and terrorists to evade surveillance.

In February, Mr Acton launched the Signal Foundation, a nonprofit developing technology that "protects free expression and enables secure global communication".