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EU Fines Facebook $122 Million Over Misleading Information On WhatsApp Deal (siliconrepublic.com) 31

On Thursday, the European Union's powerful antitrust chief fined Facebook 110 million euros, or about $122 million, for giving misleading statements during the company's $19 billion acquisition of the internet messaging service WhatsApp in 2014. From a report: During the review process, the EC discussed the possibility of Facebook matching its users' accounts with WhatsApp users' accounts, to which Facebook replied that it "would be unable to establish reliable automated matching" between the two. Since then, though, the company has found a way, and it seems pretty straightforward. Unhappy with this, the EC today revealed a "proportionate and deterrent fine." How it acts as a deterrent, however, is unclear. Facebook was at risk of a fine totalling 1 percent of its turnover, which would have been closer to 200 million euros, but the figure was lower due to its compliance during the 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 EC said.
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EU Fines Facebook $122 Million Over Misleading Information On WhatsApp Deal

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  • What's so difficult about matching up accounts? I used to that sort of thing all the time.
    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @10:11AM (#54441491)

      The EU (or, more precisely, its lawyers) don't care if it's easy or hard. They say "don't do it", Facebook said "Oh don't worry, we can't anyway". Turns out they not only can but also do. Basically the EU is now pissed because they were lied to and now simply present Facebook the invoice for trying to bullshit them.

      • Also, it is probable that the argument went at least partially toward the EU allowing the merger in the first place. All considered, they got away with a very light slap on the wrist. They are not even being obliged to undo it.
        • Like it can be undone anymore.

          If anything, this fine is a statement towards everyone else that would simply try to appease the EU with bullshit agreements they already know they don't want to keep.

          • It can be undone by requiring Facebook to spin out WhatsApp as a separate company and not share data with them, and to divest themselves of 50% of the shares in the new company within 5 years. That would be very expensive for Facebook, but not entirely without precedent for merger regulations.
      • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
        It's a price that FB were happy to pay all along. Cost of doing business. EU Commission should get someone competent in charge who doesn't take an entity like Facebook at its word. Height of idiocy.
        • by dave420 ( 699308 )

          They didn't take Facebook at its word, hence this happening. Legal proceedings take a long time to sort out, and this was sorted out as it should have been. The EU deserves criticism, but this isn't it :)

  • Facebook advises that they aren't confident that they can technically accomplish something and end up getting fined?
    • by Wulf2k ( 4703573 )

      Sure, when they say that they can't do something that they can easily do, know that it can be easily done, and then do it easily.

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
      Mm. If that's your takeaway from this all I can suggest is try reading it again.
  • Seriously, there's nothing difficult about that. Load up list of WhatsApp users, and db lookup FB user's phone numbers from their own db. Or one tiny bit more complex if needing to account for missing country codes in the FB phone number.

    Even without tech knowledge, knowing ppl provide their phone numbers in FB and knowing that can be matched to WhatsApp doesn't require any sort of leap. Aargh.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      That is not reliable, because not every user provides FB with a phone number.
      Some people also have multiple present or past phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and provided a different number to each service.

      • That is not reliable, because not every user knowingly provides FB with a phone number.

        FTFY

        Permissions from the Facebook app:
        Read_Phone_State - Can read the number if stored in the device which it is quite often.
        Read_Profile - Can read the number if stored in the users own contact card.
        Get_Accounts - Can skip all the above and just get the details of the WhatsApp account off the phone.

        • by mysidia ( 191772 )

          You're talking about Spyware-like behavior; I don't think the Facebook app does that.
          Even if it did; i've never run a Facebook phone app, only accessed it on a PC

          • by Wulf2k ( 4703573 )

            So maybe they didn't match up 100% of accounts.

            Do you think the number of accounts they didn't match up is much more than a rounding error?

          • by gnick ( 1211984 )

            You're talking about Spyware-like behavior; I don't think the Facebook app does that.

            It is spyware-like behavior. I think the FB app does exactly that. They base their business on being as close to spyware as they can get away with.

            As an example, if you have location services enabled, FB will collect information about everywhere your phone has been and make guesses as to businesses you've visited. If they're doing that, I don't think they'd hesitate at all to peek at the phone numbers stored in your phone.

          • You're talking about Spyware-like behavior; I don't think the Facebook app does that.

            It doesn't need to do that for spyware reasons. There are plenty of reasons that Facebook has legitimate access to these given the features of the app. By the way that the app requests access to these is undisputable. You can check it yourself on any Android phone.

            Even if it did; i've never run a Facebook phone app, only accessed it on a PC

            You are hardly what anyone would define "normal" in this regard. The Facebook App had 146million unique users in the USA alone last year. That's right almost half of the population, and we only just ran a Slashdot article [slashdot.org] talking about how Faceboo

  • Instead of asking Facebook that question they should have asked it on Slashdot. They would have received a more accurate answer.
  • That's not a fine. That's a statement of indifference, an encouragement to keep lying for profit. Spineless bastards.

  • by Frederic54 ( 3788 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @10:39AM (#54441729) Journal

    wow, who cares? Certainly not Zuckerberg!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Ram it so hard up in Zuckerbergs ass that the little fucker can taste shit.

    Hopefully this is only the beginning. More and bigger fines, please.

  • Matching accounts from WhatsApp to Facebook is counter intuitive to the point of encrypted messaging. I keep telling people WhatsApp is owned by Facefarm and to not trust it, but then an article comes out clearly showing my point and people's heads are somewhere else. Use a Tox client. There are no accounts and supports texting, calling, video, and file sharing. It works almost exactly like OpenVPN does but for messaging.

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