EU Commission Burns Facebook With $122 Million Fine Over WhatsApp Account Sharing

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Facebook is feeling the burn today thanks to actions taken by the European Union. The company came under fire both at home and abroad when it announced last year WhatsApp would begin sharing user information with its parent (which just so happens to be Facebook). This flew in the face of comments that WhatsApp made when Facebook acquired the company in March 2014.

With this in mind, the EU has decided to fine Facebook for its transgressions, which include “providing incorrect or misleading information” during the European Commission’s investigation into the merger. Getting to the nitty gritty, the Commission found that Facebook flat out lied when it said that users shouldn’t be worried about their WhatsApp information being used by Facebook in the future. 

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In fact, the Commission asserts that Facebook indicated that it could not “establish reliable automated matching” between Facebook and WhatsApp accounts to make such sharing possible. Well, as we found in last year, where there’s a will, there’s a way. The Commission was unamused by its finding when it dug further into details surrounding the merger:

The Commission has found that, contrary to Facebook's statements in the 2014 merger review process, the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook and WhatsApp users' identities already existed in 2014, and that Facebook staff were aware of such a possibility…

Moreover, the Commission considers that Facebook staff were aware of the user matching possibility and that Facebook was aware of the relevance of user matching for the Commission's assessment, and of its obligations under the Merger Regulation. Therefore, Facebook's breach of procedural obligations was at least negligent.

After completing its investigation, the Commission decided to fine Facebook €110 million, or roughly $122 million. It determined that this amount was both “proportionate and [a] deterrent” to further infractions by the company.

In September 2016, Facebook was forced to stop collecting data from German WhatsApp users.