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EU Fines Facebook €110M For 'Misleading' WhatsApp Info

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Social media giant says it acted in good faith during 2014 takeover

The European Commission on Thursday fined Facebook €110 million ($122 million) for providing “incorrect or misleading information” during its investigation into the social media giant’s €17 billion ($19 billion) takeover of WhatsApp in 2014.

The Commission, which launched a probe last year, said in a statement it "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".

It went on to accuse Facebook of “two separate infringements” in providing misleading answers in its merger notification form and in reply to a Commission request for information.

"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," Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

"And it imposes a proportionate and deterrent fine on Facebook. The Commission must be able to take decisions about mergers' effects on competition in full knowledge of accurate facts."

Facebook responded to the decision by saying it had acted in good faith in its deliberations with the Commission.

"The errors we made in our 2014 filings were not intentional. The commission has confirmed that they did not impact the outcome of the merger review," Facebook said in a statement. "Today’s announcement brings this matter to a close," it added.

On Tuesday, France’s privacy regulator watchdog CNIL fined the social media company €150,000 ($166,000) for allowing advertisers to access user data.

Facebook, which earned €24.7 billion ($27.6 billion) in revenue last year, is being investigated by Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain for data privacy violations around the tracking of users and non-users and the use of user data for advertising.

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