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Facebook’s WhatsApp privacy lie cost it $122 million in European fines

Updated Jan 18th, 2021 6:06AM EST
Facebook WhatsApp Privacy Fine
Image: Mark Zuckerberg

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Remember back in 2014 when Facebook acquired WhatsApp for a boatload of money that WhatsApp promised nothing would change privacy-wise for its customers? Remember when two years later Facebook unveiled an opt-out feature that would connect a user’s Facebook and WhatsApp accounts automatically? Remember when the European Commission started an inquiry into the matter forcing Facebook to remove the feature?

Well, it turns out that Facebook’s lie costs $122 million (€110 million) in fines.

The EU antitrust body fined Facebook on Thursday for giving misleading information in 2014 during the vetting of its WhatsApp deal, Reuters reports.

Facebook, at the time, told the EU that it could not match Facebook and WhatsApp user accounts automatically, although such capability existed.

“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 Commission said.

Facebook, meanwhile, said that “today’s announcement brings this matter to a close,” adding that the errors made in its 2014 documents were not intentional. Facebook also said the errors had not affected the outcome of the merger review, and would not reverse the Commission’s decision to approve it.

Facebook faced a penalty of up to $276 million, or 1% of its 2016 financial performance, but the Commission went for a smaller fine as Facebook cooperated with the investigation and admitted its infringement.

Last week, Facebook also received a €3 million WhatsApp-based fine in Italy for forcing users to agree to share data with Facebook.

Earlier this week, Facebook also received a different €150,000 fine in France, for allowing advertisers to access user data.

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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