WhatsApp – a cross-platform centralized instant messaging and voice-over-IP service owned by Facebook, has been fined €225 million ($267 million) by Ireland’s privacy watchdog for breaking the European Union’s data privacy rules.
An 89-page summary issued by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission announced that the messaging and VoIP mobile service didn’t notify EU citizens how it handles their personal data, including how it shares that information with its parent company.
— The Verge (@verge) September 3, 2021
In a press release issued on September 2nd, 2021, the Data Protection Commission further said that they are ordering WhatsApp to take “corrective actions” to change how it interacts with the users to obey EU regulations.
Ireland’s privacy watchdog’s announcement wraps up the investigation that was opened in December 2018, after the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, took effect. This is the second biggest penalty issue under the GDPR laws after last year’s Twitter’s fine of 450,000 euros for a security breach.
In response to this fine, WhatsApp also issued a press statement in which they said the following:
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.
These Irish watchdogs work as a lead regulator in cross-border data privacy cases for WhatsApp and other big tech companies with their European headquarters in Dublin, under the GDPR laws. Behind Luxembourg’s 746 million euro fine to Amazon in July for data protection violations, the Irish penalty is the second biggest issue in the EU under GDPR.
The Irish Data Protection Commission has open several other investigations into big tech companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook, including this second case involving WhatsApp.
Accordingly to WhatsApp, the messaging service shares phone numbers, transaction data, business interactions, mobile device information, and IP address information with Facebook. It is no surprise that WhatsApp has continuously been under the radar and faced criticism about how long and complicated its privacy policies are.
If you’re a bit shaky about WhatsApp’s ability to collect your personal information, then you can always back up your security with a reliable VPN service offering 256-bit encryption.