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EU goes after Facebook for misleading information during WhatsApp purchase

Published Dec 20th, 2016 8:00AM EST

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WhatsApp represents one of Facebook’s most important acquisitions and a very costly one. It’s also one of the most popular messaging applications out there, having more users than Facebook’s own Messenger app. Given WhatsApp’s popularity, it’s not surprising to see the European Union investigate Facebook, as the giant social network now owns two major communication platforms that are widely used across the globe, including Europe. But that’s not why the EU is going after Facebook.

EU antitrust regulators have charged Facebook with providing misleading information during the acquisition of WhatsApp. The move follows Facebook and WhatsApp’s decision to share user data.

The EU’s investigation will not have an impact on the approval of the $22 billion purchase from 2014, the EU said in a statement on Tuesday. But Facebook may be in for a possible fine of 1% of its turnover, Reuters reports.

A few months ago, WhatsApp announced its users that it’ll start sharing certain data with its parent company. WhatsApp offered users a way out, provided they acted fast. But the EU isn’t happy with this particular move given Facebook’s original statements regarding the future of WhatsApp after the purchase.

The EU now says that Facebook said in its notification of the acquisition that it would be unable reliable to match the two companies’ user accounts. It turns out, Facebook and WhatsApp can easily do it, and all they need is a phone number.

“In today’s Statement of Objections, the Commission takes the preliminary view that 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 Commission said.

“At this stage, the Commission, therefore, has concerns that Facebook intentionally, or negligently, submitted incorrect or misleading information to the Commission, in breach of its obligations under the EU Merger Regulation.”

A few days ago, Facebook stopped collecting WhatsApp data in the region, but the “harm” may already be done. Facebook has until January 31st to respond to the antitrust investigation

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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