Sunday 21 January 2018

Facebook facing EU fine over WhatsApp claims

Facebook ceo Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook has been charged by the EU. Photo: Bloomberg
Facebook ceo Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook has been charged by the EU. Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: AP

Julia Fioretti Brussel

The European Commission has charged Facebook with providing misleading information during its takeover of the online messaging service WhatsApp, opening the company to a possible fine of 1pc of its turnover.

However, the statement of objections sent to Facebook will not affect the EC's approval of the $22bn (€21bn) merger in 2014, the Commission said in a statement.

Facebook is the latest Silicon Valley target of EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, best known in Ireland for her controversial ruling in August demanding that Apple pay €13bn in Irish back taxes. She has also subjected Google to two market abuse investigations.

The issue regards a WhatsApp privacy policy change 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.

The Commission said Facebook, headed by ceo Sheryl Sandberg, had indicated in its notification of the planned acquisition that it would be unable to reliably match the two companies' user accounts.

"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 executive said it now thinks the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook users' IDs with those of WhatsApp existed in 2014, when Facebook sought EU approval for the merger.

Facebook has until January 31 to respond. If the Commission's concerns are confirmed it can impose a fine of up to 1pc of turnover, or about $179m (€172m) based on 2015 revenues.

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

Irish Independent

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