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European regulators have fined Facebook for ‘misleading’ them during its purchase of WhatsApp in 2014

The European Commission took action after Facebook began merging customers’ data.

EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager onstage
European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager
Via YouTube

European regulators have fined Facebook 110 million euros for providing regulators with “misleading” statements about its purchase of WhatsApp in 2014.

As it sought the European Commission’s blessings to proceed with the $22 billion deal, Facebook said at the time it could not easily combine information about its billions of users with those who had signed up for WhatsApp.

Two years later, though, Facebook altered course, announcing in a major privacy policy change that it would match the data on users from the two sites. The August announcement drew widespread criticism throughout privacy-conscious Europe, leading Facebook by November to alter its practices there.

Still, the European Commission proceeded with an official probe: The region’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, issued a formal statement of objections against Facebook’s conduct in December. The fine issued Thursday resolves that investigation.

“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 EU body said in a statement Thursday.

In its own statement, Facebook stressed Thursday that it had acted in “good faith” in its interactions with the commission. “The errors we made in our 2014 filings were not intentional and the Commission has confirmed that they did not impact the outcome of the merger review. Today’s announcement brings this matter to a close,” the company said.

Earlier, Italian and French authorities imposed their own fines on Facebook for its handling of WhatsApp. Meanwhile, U.S. regulators last year said they were examining similar complaints filed against Facebook.

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