WhatsApp Fined $266M By Ireland Data Privacy Regulator Over Data Shared With Facebook

Ireland fined Facebook's WhatsApp a record $266 million (€225 million) on Thursday, following an inquiry into the app's transparency around sharing personal data with other Facebook companies. Although it is a fraction of the company’s annual profit, it is the largest fine issued by Irish regulators against a tech company of its size under the law.

Ireland's Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC), the lead data privacy regulator in the European Union overseeing companies like Facebook, pointed to the way WhatsApp conformed with EU data rules about transparency in 2018.

"This includes information provided to data subjects about the processing of information between WhatsApp and other Facebook companies," the DPC stated.

In December, Ireland fined Twitter 450,000 euros related to a data breach, according to one report.

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The ruling said WhatsApp did not meet its “transparency obligations” to clearly disclose how data from users would be used by Facebook for its other services.

Changes to the WhatsApp messaging app’s privacy policy remove the opt-out option this year, according to XDA-Developers. 

The changes went into effect in February. At the time it did not give users a choice other than to accept the terms of service if they want to continue using the app.

The policy notice, at the time, at least in the U.S., described three key updates that affected how WhatsApp processes user data, how businesses can use Facebook hosted services to store and manage their WhatsApp chats, and how WhatsApp will soon partner with Facebook to offer deeper integrations across all of Facebook’s products. 

The information, shared with other Facebook companies, will include account registration information such as phone numbers; transaction data; service-related information, information on how the user interacts with others, including businesses when using its services; mobile device information; and IP address, and may include other information identified in the Privacy Policy section entitled ‘Information We Collect’ or obtained upon notice to the user or based on their consent.

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