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Facebook fined $120M by European Union over 'misleading' WhatsApp deal information


The fine would not reverse the Commission's decision to clear the purchase of WhatsApp and was unrelated to separate investigations into data protection issues, it added.

The European Commission today announced it has fined Facebook €110 million for providing incorrect or misleading information during the EU merger notification of its $19 billion (€12 billion) acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014.

"Today's decision sends a clear signal to companies that they must comply with all aspects of EU merger rules, including the obligation to provide correct information", EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement after imposing the Commission's biggest penalty for such a breach.

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After launching a probe previous year, the Commission "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". But the Commission said it had taken into account the company's cooperation during the inquiry.

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 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", the European Union stated.

In 2014, Facebook told the European Commission - the executive arm of the EU - it couldn't automatically match Facebook's users' accounts to WhatsApp users' accounts.

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A Facebook spokesperson said: "The errors we made in our 2014 filings were not intentional and the Commission has confirmed that they did not impact the outcome of the merger review".

In the USA, privacy advocates Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy asked the FTC to intervene in Facebook's plan to merge data about users with WhatsApp. 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.

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