Sunday 18 August 2019

Facebook faces possible fine of over $170m after as Whatsapp takeover investigated

Photo shows the WhatsApp and Facebook app icons on an iPhone in New York.
Photo shows the WhatsApp and Facebook app icons on an iPhone in New York.

Sean Duffy

Facebook faces a possible fine of in excess of $170m after the European Commission announced it is probing the company’s takeover of Whatsapp back in 2014.

Earlier today, the Commission issued a “Statement of Objections to Facebook alleging the company provided incorrect or misleading information” into the companies proposed takeover of Whatsapp in 2014 which was subsequently approved.

During the Commission’s examination of the takeover in 2014, it asked for assurances about the matching of Facebook users accounts with Whatsapp users accounts.

In August of this year, Whatsapp announced an updated privacy policy that raised the possibility of linking users’ accounts to Facebook.

In its statement today, the Commission added “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.”

The company has been given until January 31 to reply to the Commission. If the Commission’s case were to be confirmed, Facebook could be liable to pay a fine of 1pc of its revenue.

Latest accounts show the tech giant had turnover in excess of $17bn.

“We respect the Commission’s process and are confident that a full review of the facts will confirm Facebook has acted in good faith," facebook said in a statement.

"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. We’re pleased that the Commission stands by its clearance decision, and we will continue to cooperate and share information officials need to resolve their questions.”

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