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Facebook Fined €110 Million For Misleading The European Commission

Late last year, the European Commission started an investigation into Facebook's merger with WhatsApp to learn whether or not the company could automatically link Facebook and WhatsApp accounts prior to the merger. The answer seems to be yes, as the Commission is now fining the social networking company €110 million ($122 million) over this violation.

Facebook And WhatsApp Merger

Last summer, WhatsApp announced that it was going to share information with Facebook for advertising purposes, breaking its initial promise not to do just that. This prompted multiple national data protection authorities in the European Union to open investigations and block Facebook's collection of WhatsApp data. The agencies felt that WhatsApp altered its deal with users in a significant way without giving them much time to evaluate the data sharing that Facebook was enabling.

WhatsApp made the data sharing opt-out by default, so you had to be aware that this was even happening, and you only had 30 days to act. Afterwards, your data would be fully shared with Facebook. Even if you opted-out, you would still be forced to share some basic information with Facebook.

European Commission Investigates Account Linking

Not long after, the European Commission opened its own investigation because it realized that Facebook provided incorrect information during the merger process, when the company said that it wouldn’t be able to link WhatsApp phone numbers to Facebook accounts.

According to the Commission, the fact that Facebook misled it about the account linking during the merger investigation was already grounds for sanctions under the EU Merger Regulation. The Commission said Facebook has acknowledged its infringement of the rules and waived its right to an oral hearing.  

The Commission can impose fines of up to 1% of a company’s annual revenue when the company intentionally or negligently provides incorrect or misleading information to the Commission. The institution ended up imposing a fine of 110 million ($122 million) on Facebook, which is about 0.4% of the company’s revenue for 2016 ($27.6 billion).

When setting the level of the fine, the Commission said it took into account Facebook’s initial cooperation in the merger as well as the cooperation in this investigation. It also added that Facebook’s violation and the sanction shouldn’t affect the 2014 decision to clear the merger.

On-Going Investigations

The European Commission noted that today’s sanction is unrelated to other national antitrust or data protection investigations, which may arise following WhatsApp’s privacy policy update from August 2016.

Facebook was also recently fined by the French Data Protection Authority in an investigation related to its tracking of both users and non-users, across the web and without consent, through the Like button.

  • dstarr3
    Well, this might get their attention at least slightly more than the 150,000-euro fine earlier this week.
    Reply
  • Giroro
    Facebook: Do you have change for a 1 Billion Euro note? It's the smallest amount of money we can conceive of existing. ... Just kidding, our spyware told us you definitely don't have enough cash to make change.
    Reply
  • mspencerl87
    FB = Criminals
    Reply
  • skibo1219
    Only ignorant idiots use facebook. remember that next time you are absolutely required to log into it just to participate in some cheap ass contest.
    Reply
  • Th3pwn3r
    The European 'commission' is just a bunch of scumbags who want to dip their hands in the cookie jar. Instead of really doing anything that matters they're doing whatever they can to take money and not doing anything that helps.
    Reply
  • HyperMatrix
    Facebook is an evil corporation now.
    Reply
  • Co BIY
    Corrupt unaccountable entity collects money from second corrupt unaccountable entity. These bureaucratic fines are hard tell apart from mafia protection payments, institutional bribes or just extra-legal taxes. Especially when the amount is insanely high and no justification is given for the amount decided. Is that $2 per phone number 'stolen' ? Why $122 million ? Or is that just enough to fund the commission for the next few years.

    What is done with the money collected? Is this used to get people their privacy back ? Is is given to users who's data was stolen ?

    Was Facebook ordered to purge the data collected or is the unchallenged fine payment just a payment to the commission for the citizen's data? A secular indulgence payment for a clean corporate conscience?
    Reply
  • RomeoReject
    It's a deterrent, Co Biy. Same reason that getting a ticket for running a red doesn't get other drivers money back.
    Reply
  • Th3pwn3r
    19709955 said:
    Corrupt unaccountable entity collects money from second corrupt unaccountable entity. These bureaucratic fines are hard tell apart from mafia protection payments, institutional bribes or just extra-legal taxes. Especially when the amount is insanely high and no justification is given for the amount decided. Is that $2 per phone number 'stolen' ? Why $122 million ? Or is that just enough to fund the commission for the next few years.

    What is done with the money collected? Is this used to get people their privacy back ? Is is given to users who's data was stolen ?

    Was Facebook ordered to purge the data collected or is the unchallenged fine payment just a payment to the commission for the citizen's data? A secular indulgence payment for a clean corporate conscience?

    Exactly. Here in Cook County(Chicagoland area is Cook County) they were implementing a pop/soda tax. The tax will be more expensive than the pop/soda itself. My guess is someone didn't receive a payout(extortion) and now the soda companies are going to see large losses in sales due to this new tax.
    Reply