The European Commission today imposed a fine of € 110m on Facebook social media network because the US company provided inaccurate information during the research on the acquisition of the WhatsApp mobile application, according to Reuters and AFP.
“Today’s decision sends a strong message to businesses, showing that they have to adhere to all aspects of the EU Merger Regulation, including the obligation to provide accurate information,” Competition Commissioner Margrete Vestagger said in a statement.
On 3 October 2014, the European Commission, the guardian of competition in Europe, had given the green light for the ultimate acquisition of WhatsApp from Facebook for $ 22 billion. Today’s decision does not change in any way the green light that has been given for the takeover, the European Commission said.
Facebook responded immediately to the announcement: “We have acted in good faith since our first meetings with the European Commission and we have always sought to provide accurate information.” “The mistake we made in the documents we gave in 2014 was not appropriate and the Commission confirmed that this had no effect on the outcome of the merger examination,” said Facebook spokesman Alend Williams at the French Agency. “Today’s announcement closes the case,” he added.
Facebook had assured during the 2014 Brussels survey to buy WhatsApp “that it was unable to automatically and reliably link the user accounts of the two companies”, a fact which the Commission explains ‘Take note’ to give its approval to the business.
However, in August 2016, the Californian business modified WhatsApp’s confidentiality policy, resulting in the data collected with this application being used to suggest an ad for other group applications such as Facebook or Instagram.
The Commission has begun discussions since September with Facebook, which has temporarily halted in November the sharing of information with WhatsApp in Europe. Data sharing with WhatsApp cost Facebook a lot of criticism in Europe, mainly from G29, which unites the national data protection authorities of different EU Member States.
The acquisition of WhatsApp was thus challenged by privacy advocacy groups that expressed fears of misuse of users’ personal data. Last Tuesday, French Data Protection Agency imposed a fine of 150,000 euros on Facebook because it did not prevent advertisers from accessing their users’ data.