Facebook has cheated Brussels with "incorrect" information about buying WhatsApp

The European Commission said Tuesday that it was holding an investigation to determine whether Facebook lied or withheld information about its capacity to pull data from WhatsApp back when it announced that it was acquiring the company for the aforementioned sum.

The EC sent a statement of objections to Facebook, focused on the social network's assertion during the August 2014 review of the transaction that it did not have the ability to match information from Facebook user accounts and WhatsApp user accounts, and the social network has until January 31 to respond.

In a statement of objections sent to Facebook, the commission said it took the preliminary view that in 2014 Facebook knew full-well it was technically possible to merge the two databases of user data.

"We've consistently provided accurate information about our technical capabilities and plans", a Facebook spokesman said.

She said: "Our timely and effective review of mergers depends on the accuracy of the information provided by the companies involved". European regulators claim that Facebook may have provided misleading or incorrect info during the antitrust review that ultimately led to the approval of its acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014.

The world's biggest social network faces fines of up to 1 per cent of annual sales or roughly $125m, according to Facebook's annual revenue in 2014. "Facebook now has the opportunity to respond".

Despite the new regulatory standoff, Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp is not in question. The EU approval for the Facebook-WhatsApp deal isn't at risk, the authority said in an e-mailed statement.

When reviewing Facebook's planned acquisition of WhatsApp, the commission looked, among other elements, at the possibility of Facebook matching its users' accounts with WhatsApp users' accounts.

Facebook has said it follows European privacy laws, but it has paused some of the data sharing pending the outcome of those probes.

This wouldn't be the first time a large tech company has had to pay out to Europe's regulator: in 2004 Microsoft had to pay the commission close to $800 million because it bundled Media Player into Windows. A little later, the Article 29 Working Party formed of all the privacy chiefs in the European Union also urged Facebook to stop its WhatsApp data collection.

It is now at the hands of Facebook to examine the documents that the Commission has in its possession and reply in written to the European institution requesting an oral hearing to state its arguments.

It is quite hard to believe that Facebook, even for the most naive analyst, that one of the greatest USA tech giants, hadn't tested the matching of the user accounts between the two companies before proceeding to the merger process.

As regards social networking services the commission concluded that, no matter what the precise boundaries of the market for social networking services are and whether or not WhatsApp is considered a social network, the companies are, if anything, distant competitors.

Related news