EU fines Facebook millions over ′misleading′ WhatsApp takeover | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 18.05.2017
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EU fines Facebook millions over 'misleading' WhatsApp takeover

The EU has pinned a 110 million euro fine on Facebook for giving incorrect information about its WhatsApp buyout. Facebook had said it wasn't able to link user accounts -then offered the option in an update.

Facebook was fined 110 million euros ($120 million) by the European Commission on Thursday for providing misleading and incorrect information concerning its buyout of the mobile messaging service WhatsApp.

"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.

Facebook said in a statement that it cooperated with the Commission's investigation and that the incorrect statements were not intentional.

"We've acted in good faith since our very first interactions with the Commission and we've sought to provide accurate information at every turn," a Facebook spokesperson said.

Linking user accounts

The EU said when Facebook informed the Commission of the 2014 takeover, the social media giant said it would be unable to "establish reliable automated matching" between Facebook and WhatsApp accounts.

However, WhatsApp announced updates to its privacy policy and terms of service in August 2016, including the option of linking WhatsApp phone numbers with Facebook users' identities.

The 2016 update sparked massive resistance from European data protection activists.

After launching a probe into the matter last 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."

The European Commission said its decision on Thursday and the fine would not have an impact on its October 2014 clearance of the $19 billion deal. At the time, they found no reason to believe the takeover would diminish competition in the booming social media sector.

rs/sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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