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EC says Facebook gave misleading info over WhatsApp deal

The European Commission accused Facebook Inc. of providing misleading information when the commission conducted a probe into the social networking giant's acquisition of WhatsApp Inc. in 2014, according to a Dec. 20 news release.

The commission's allegations stemmed from WhatsApp's move to share user data with Facebook for product development and advertising purposes. WhatsApp has since scrapped the strategy following pressure from EU privacy watchdogs.

In sending a statement of objections to Facebook, the EC said it initially believes Facebook users' IDs might have already been automatically matched with WhatsApp users' IDs as early as 2014, when the commission conducted the investigation into the then proposed transaction. In contrast, Facebook said in August 2014 when it notified the commission of the transaction that it would be unable to establish automated matching between its user accounts with those of WhatsApp.

"Companies are obliged to give the Commission accurate information during merger investigations. Facebook now has the opportunity to respond," said EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

The commission has given Facebook until Jan. 31, 2017, to respond to the charges. Under EU merger rules, the social networking company could pay a fine of up to 1% of its turnover if the EC's charges were confirmed.