EU Fines Facebook $122 Million Over Acquisition of WhatsApp

The social media behemoth gave misleading information at the time it took over WhatsApp in 2014 said the European Commission.

Facebook at that time told the EC that there was not a way to match a user’s account on Facebook with their account on WhatsApp.

However, last August, the accounts were indeed linked, and the EC found that Facebook employees were aware of that possibility three years ago during the acquisition. That led the EC to fine the company €110 million equal to approximately $122 million.

The acquisition by Facebook of WhatsApp closed during October of 2014 for a price of $19 billion. The EU announced last December that it was investigating Facebook.

The decision taken by the EC sends a signal to other companies of the need to comply with all merger rules that the EU has, including an obligation to provide information that is correct, said Margrethe Vestager the EC Competition Commissioner.

In a prepared statement that Facebook posted on its website, the social media giant said it had acted in good faith during interactions it had with the EU.

The filing errors made during 2014 were in no way intentional, the EC confirmed that it did not affect the merger review’s outcome and the announcement by the EC brings the matter to a close.

The EC said that Facebook said it could not match its user accounts automatically on its platform with those of WhatsApp.

However, only two years after the merger, it launched a new feature that did that.

The EC said it found out that contrary to statement made by Facebook in 2014 the technical possibility of matching automatically users’ identities between Facebook and WhatsApp existed back in 2014 and the staff at Facebook had been aware of that possibility.

However, it did say the recent fine would in no way reverse the decision it made to approve the purchase of $19 billion by Facebook of WhatsApp and was not related to other separate investigations over issues of data protection.

Facebook is facing other legal woes in Europe. A decision in August taken by Facebook to share data between WhatsApp and Facebook was frowned upon by the German Consumer Organizations and the group asked a court in Berlin for an injunction in order to stop the information sharing and force Facebook to delete data it received from WhatsApp.

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David Glass

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