European Comission Flikr

Facebook Inc. may incur a multi-million dollar fine for misleading the EU in its takeover of WhatsApp. The EU antitrust authority believes the social media giant gave “incorrect or misleading information” about the deal.

According to EU officials, Facebook misled the Commission about linking WhatsApp data with its advertising platform. The concern comes from a privacy policy announcement in August, which would allow Facebook and Instagram to draw from the WhatsApp data set.

This is contrary to what the company told the EU. In 2014, it told the EU that it couldn’t combine WhatsApp data with its other services.

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“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,” said a spokesperson for the EU.

Privacy Concerns

The main concern is that sharing such data disrespects users privacy. So much so, that Germany put a halt to the practice in November thanks to a data protection law. The country also insisted Facebook delete existing data.

As a result of opposition, Facebook has completely halted collection from European citizen’s, through this is apparently a temporary measure.

The social media giant said in an email statement that it’s “confident that a full review of the facts will confirm Facebook has acted in good faith,” adding “We’ve consistently provided accurate information about our technical capabilities and plans, including in submissions about the WhatsApp acquisition and in voluntary briefings before WhatsApp’s privacy policy update.”

If the EU finds Facebook to be guilty, the company will face a fine of one percent of annual sales. That will likely add up to millions of dollars. However, German MEP Markus Ferber has hinted at further ramifications.

The parliament member said the company will face “tangible consequences” if it can’t produce evidence to the contrary. However, he also conceded that EU regulators should not “ignore the important role played by data for companies in the digital economy.”

It’s been a tough year for EU antitrust. Microsoft was hit with opposition over its $26 billion LinkedIn acquisition and had to make several concessions.

Facebook has until January 31st to respond to the allegations.

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