Facebook-owned chat app, WhatsApp has been asked by the Irish Data Protection Commission to pay a fine of €225m or roughly US$193 million for violating the provisions of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. It’s kind of hard not to feel like this was long overdue given how Facebook and WhatsApp have been mishandling privacy issues this year and in the past.
In my opinion, the fine sounds low compared to the billions the EU has obtained from companies like Google in anti-trust suits but this is the second-largest (Amazon was asked to pay a €746 million fine in July) ever fine under the GDPR provisions which govern how data pertaining to European citizens ought to be handled by the internet companies. The GDPR mandates that data be processed transparently and honestly and stem from 2018 when the law came into effect. Transparency is something Mark Zuckerberg and his empire simply don’t value especially where user data is concerned.
Seriously though no one is surprised that WhatsApp was found guilty of violating laws involving transparency except maybe WhatsApp themselves who strongly denied the charge with the usual vague responses that publicity departments issue which actually mean little.
WhatsApp is committed to providing a secure and private service.
We have worked to ensure the information we provide is transparent and comprehensive and will continue to do so. We disagree with the decision today regarding the transparency we provided to people in 2018 and the penalties are entirely disproportionate.What WhatsApp had to say about the issue.
If you are wondering what this statement actually means you are not alone and wonder no more. It means nothing. Facebook has been mining user data with reckless abandon for years. This year alone they spent the good part of the year trying to shove down “updated terms and conditions” that made little sense only to make a u-turn at the last minute.
Most analysts are of the same mind as me. They think the company is getting away with privacy murder. In fact, the Irish authorities are not being criticised for the decision they reached. They are being criticised for taking 3 years to handle one case when they receive 10 000 such complaints per year.
Hopefully, such fines will make WhatsApp more respectful where privacy is concerned but I am not holding my breath. It will probably take several years for WhatsApp to actually pay this fine. They will appeal, drag their feet and continue to harvest data on their way to 1984.