WhatsApp fined a record $267 million for GDPR violations

Daniel Sims

Posts: 106   +5
Staff
In brief: Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC) has announced it's hitting WhatsApp with its biggest ever fine for GDPR violations. European authorities say WhatsApp hasn't been transparent enough about what information the communication app shares with other companies under the umbrella of WhatsApp's owner, Facebook.

The DPC has been investigating WhatsApp's compliance with the European Union's GDPR privacy law since 2018. This fine of €225 million (around $267 million) comes after the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) conducted its own review of the case and advised the DPC in late July on how much it should fine WhatsApp.

Reuters reports that privacy activist Max Schrems, who has opposed Facebook in multiple privacy cases in the past, said the DPC's original fine was just €50 million.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said the company disagrees with the decision and thinks the penalty is disproportionate. WhatsApp plans to appeal.

After the DPC's investigation determined that WhatsApp's transparency about what it was doing with users' information didn't meet GDPR obligations, the EDPB's investigation determined WhatsApp's infringements were more severe. "Regarding WhatsApp IE’s collection of data of non-users - when users decide to use the Contact Feature functionality - the EDPB found that in the present case, the procedure used by WhatsApp IE does not lead to anonymization [sic] of the collected personal data," the EDPB's press release states as one example.

WhatsApps' original co-founders, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, designed it to be a privacy-focused communication app. After Facebook acquired it in 2014, it wanted to collect data on WhatsApp users for targeted advertising, which led to disagreements with the co-founders. Acton and Koum eventually left. Acton started helping in the development of Signal, another privacy-focused communication app.

Earlier this year, WhatsApp announced its non-EU users would have to start sharing data with Facebook or else lose functionality. That data could include things like phone numbers, friends' phone numbers, and diagnostic data. Initially it even threatened to eventually delete accounts that didn't comply, but relented.

Permalink to story.

 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,223   +6,977
I wish the Congress, FTC, and all other governmental bodies would get off their tails and close the books on Fakebook. They have proven over and over again they are not to be trusted and when they promise to DO BETTER, it's obvious they mean they are going to do it to us better ... for them!
 

Sausagemeat

Posts: 773   +588
I wonder if Facebook will comply or threaten the EU over this. They really are a disgusting organisation who has made billions hand over fist by exploiting the personal data it’s users blindly give it. And whenever they get a slap on the wrist they still don’t change anything.

I hope regulators start finding these guys to the tune of billions. I mean $267 million is pretty small if you’re operating on a $29 billion net profit margin.
 

Watzupken

Posts: 331   +308
The moment Facebook bought over WhatsApp, this is expected to happen. What do you think a company that offers primarily advertising services will do with the data in your chat? They can promise what they want, but once the deal is completed, they can do what they want. It is like the case of Nvidia trying to take over ARM promising this and that, but most are just words, and in this case with Facebook is a prime example. It is silly that regulators will even buy these words to approve the acquisition in the first place. If the acquiring company breaks their word/ promise, can the regulators split the company up again? At most they issue a "record" fine, which is nothing more than a slap on their wrist, considering the profit these companies make. What is 256 million bucks in this case to Facebook considering they can easily cover the cost by selling the data that they collect from WhatsApp.
 

NumberSix

Posts: 57   +103
I use Signal, I have for a number of years since FB broke there initial pledge to not tamper with WhatsApp. I'm lucky I guess as most of the people I actually communicate with also moved when WhatsApp tried to force people to agree to their T&Cs so my Signal contacts filled right up in the space of a week or so. For some reason people seem to think if they install Signal WhatsApp will just stop working so they dare not even try it.

Weirdly the only person that I know that adamantly will not move to Signal is the most anti Facebook person I know, he has never signed up to it and it hates it with a passion, funny old world at times.
 

Burty117

Posts: 4,229   +2,278
You know the company is run by scum when they reply to the fine with "we think the penalty is disproportionate" rather than "we will now make the relevent changes so we no longer breach GDPR rules and regulations".
 

Austinturner

Posts: 289   +340
I wonder if Facebook will comply or threaten the EU over this. They really are a disgusting organisation who has made billions hand over fist by exploiting the personal data it’s users blindly give it. And whenever they get a slap on the wrist they still don’t change anything.

I hope regulators start finding these guys to the tune of billions. I mean $267 million is pretty small if you’re operating on a $29 billion net profit margin.
They have the right to appeal, but there is no meaningful threat they can make to the EU. They could threaten to pull out of Europe and I don’t think the EU would blink.
 

Markoni35

Posts: 1,286   +516
Yeah, they all spy. If you talk about a specific product near your Android phone, and that product is being advertised in your country, for the next few weeks you'll be seeing ads for that product. Even if you never searched for the product. It listens to all the conversations, sends them to Google, where their algorithms analyze it for keywords, and then decide what to with it. Also, they store it, just in case.

I mean, one never knows when some anonymous will become a public figure, so you can blackmail him when you need his support, right? Especially if he becomes an important politician or judge.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 1,800   +2,154
TechSpot Elite
Neither Facebook nor WhatsApp has EVER been installed on my phone since years ago when I once tried installing it on my old Moto G and it tried to take my phone over. Someone told me that I should try WhatsApp. I asked them what it was and they said "Facebook's chat program!" to which I replied, "Facebook?! Not a chance in hell will ANYTHING related to Facebook be installed on my phone!".

They asked me why not and I said "What's wrong with SMS? Did Facebook take over texting? Chatting and texting are the same thing with the only difference being that Facebook can spy on your chats. Why else do you think WhatsApp exists?" to which their face went blank.

It's not hard to blow a fool's mind, eh?
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 1,800   +2,154
TechSpot Elite
I wish the Congress, FTC, and all other governmental bodies would get off their tails and close the books on Fakebook. They have proven over and over again they are not to be trusted and when they promise to DO BETTER, it's obvious they mean they are going to do it to us better ... for them!
You think that the US government hasn't already been bought and paid for by Zuckerberg & Co.?
That's a good start... now fine them some more. This is nothing more than a slap on the wrist, you need to go for blood.
I seriously doubt that they're done.
If a regular average joe did these types of things they'd be in prison

Someone had to stop those ugly people.
They haven't been stopped yet.
The moment Facebook bought over WhatsApp, this is expected to happen. What do you think a company that offers primarily advertising services will do with the data in your chat? They can promise what they want, but once the deal is completed, they can do what they want. It is like the case of Nvidia trying to take over ARM promising this and that, but most are just words, and in this case with Facebook is a prime example. It is silly that regulators will even buy these words to approve the acquisition in the first place. If the acquiring company breaks their word/ promise, can the regulators split the company up again? At most they issue a "record" fine, which is nothing more than a slap on their wrist, considering the profit these companies make. What is 256 million bucks in this case to Facebook considering they can easily cover the cost by selling the data that they collect from WhatsApp.
What needs to be done is for the European Union
If WhatsApp hasn't declared bankruptcy, then the fine is not disproportionate.
How does one bankrupt Facebook when so many sheep use it daily?
I use Signal, I have for a number of years since FB broke there initial pledge to not tamper with WhatsApp. I'm lucky I guess as most of the people I actually communicate with also moved when WhatsApp tried to force people to agree to their T&Cs so my Signal contacts filled right up in the space of a week or so. For some reason people seem to think if they install Signal WhatsApp will just stop working so they dare not even try it.
I don't know why people don't just use SMS. Texting and chatting on these apps are exactly the same thing.
Weirdly the only person that I know that adamantly will not move to Signal is the most anti Facebook person I know, he has never signed up to it and it hates it with a passion, funny old world at times.
Probably because he doesn't trust ANY app like that and, like me, just says "Screw it, there's nothing that those apps do that SMS can't".
You know the company is run by scum when they reply to the fine with "we think the penalty is disproportionate" rather than "we will now make the relevant changes so we no longer breach GDPR rules and regulations".
That's the way that ALL corporations are. There is no moral right or wrong, just what is more profitable and what is less profitable.
They have the right to appeal, but there is no meaningful threat they can make to the EU. They could threaten to pull out of Europe and I don’t think the EU would blink.
I agree with you. In fact, I think that if they dared to threaten to leave the EU, the EC would give them a helping hand and kick them out. Europe has seen what has happened in the USA because the US government let the private sector take over everything and they're horrified by the result. Intel tried being arrogant towards them because the US government would have caved. The European Commission DOES NOT CAVE.