EU Commission accuses Facebook of misleading it with takeover of WhatsApp, fines to follow

According to a report by Reuters, the European Commission has charged Facebook with providing misleading information during its takeover of WhatsApp, which could result in the company having to pay a possible fine of one percent of its turnover.

The complaint relates to a WhatsApp privacy policy change back in August, when it said it would share some users' phone numbers with parent company Facebook, triggering investigations by a number of EU data protection authorities. However, after 28 countries' data collection authorities signed an open letter to WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum asking him to suspend the data collection, the company halted its information gathering of users' in November.

The European Commission said Facebook had indicated in its notification of the planned acquisition that it "would be unable reliably to match the two companies' user accounts."

"In today's Statement of Objections, the Commission takes the preliminary view that, contrary to Facebook's statements and reply during the merger review, the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook users' IDs with WhatsApp users' IDs already existed in 2014," it said.

"The Commission's preliminary view is that Facebook gave us incorrect or misleading information during the investigation into its acquisition of WhatsApp," said Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner.

Facebook has until January 31 to respond to the charge, and if the Commissions concerns are confirmed, the Silicon Valley company could be charged up to one percent of its annual turnover. The EU Commission also stated it has no plans to contest the 2014 $22 billion takeover.

A Facebook spokeswoman responded to the European Commissions charge of the company by stating to Reuters:

"We respect the Commission's process and are confident that a full review of the facts will confirm Facebook has acted in good faith,"

"We've consistently provided accurate information about our technical capabilities and plans, including in submissions about the WhatsApp acquisition and in voluntary briefings before WhatsApp's privacy policy update this year,"

The company will continue to cooperate and give the information officials need to resolve their questions.

This follows a string of complaints by European authorities against technology companies, the latest of which also sees Apple in the crosshairs of the Commission for an alleged $14 billion in back taxes that the EU feels the company should pay. Apple launched its appeal against the complaint yesterday.

Source: Reuters

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