Ireland hit Facebook’s WhatsApp with a record EUR 225 million (about INR 1,950 crores) on Thursday, following an investigation into the messaging app’s transparency in relation to sharing personal data with other Facebook companies.
WhatsApp said the fine is “totally disproportionate” and that it will appeal.
Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC), which is Facebook’s top data privacy regulator in the European Union, said WhatsApp-related issues in 2018 were in compliance with EU data rules on transparency.
“This includes information provided to data holders about information processing between WhatsApp and other Facebook companies,” the Irish regulator said in a statement.
A WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement that the issues in question were related to policies in effect in 2018.
“WhatsApp is committed to providing a safe and private service. We work to ensure that the information we provide is transparent and comprehensive and will continue to do so,” said the spokesperson.
“We disagree with today’s decision regarding the transparency we offer people in 2018 and the penalties are totally disproportionate,” the spokesperson said.
DPC Ireland takes the lead in data privacy for Facebook because the company’s regional headquarters are in Dublin.
The DPC has been criticized in the past by other European regulators for taking too long to reach decisions involving tech giants and for not fineing them enough for any violations.
Data regulators in eight other European countries triggered a dispute resolution mechanism after Ireland shared its interim decision regarding the WhatsApp investigation, which began in December 2018.
In July, a meeting of the European Data Protection Council issued a “clear instruction requiring the DPC to re-evaluate and increase its proposed fine based on a number of contained factors,” the Irish regulator said.
“After this reassessment, the DPC imposed a fine of 225 million euros (about Rs. 1,950 crores) on WhatsApp,” the document said.
The Irish regulator also imposed a reprimand, along with an order for WhatsApp to make its processing compliant, taking “a series of specific corrective actions”.
The Irish regulator had 14 major investigations into Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram subsidiaries open at the end of last year.