EC fines Facebook EUR 110 mln for misleading WhatsApp info

Thursday 18 May 2017 | 09:26 CET | News
Facebook has been fined EUR 110 million by the European Commission for providing incorrect or misleading information during the Commission's investigation of the social network's takeover of WhatsApp in 2014. 

The EC first announced its concerns at the end of 2016. At the time of the WhatsApp takeover, Facebook told the competition regulators that it would not be able to link WhatsApp and Facebook user accounts and data. However, in August 2016, WhatsApp announced updates to its terms of service and privacy policy, including the possibility of linking WhatsApp users' phone numbers with Facebook identities. 

The EC said Facebook said both in its initial merger filing and a later request for information that this was not possible. It now appears such technical means were available to the company already in 2014, and that Facebook staff were aware of such a possibility. 

The company acknowledged its infringement of the merger clearance rules and waived its rights to have access to the file and to an oral hearing during the EC's investigation. This is the first time the EC has imposed a fine for providing misleading information since the merger rules were adopted in 2004. 

The Commission noted that the fine does not affect the original clearance of the takeover, nor any separate privacy or consumer protection issues pending against Facebook and WhatsApp. Data protection regulators in several EU countries are already investigating the change in WhatsApp's privacy policy, and the company voluntarily suspended the data sharing in Europe pending the outcome. 

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