WhatsApp hit with huge GDPR fine

WhatsApp logo shown on a smartphone
(Image credit: Alex Ruhl / Shutterstock.com)

Messaging giant WhatsApp has been issued a huge fine for allegedly breaching the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but it could be years before the company actually pays the fine.

Ireland’s data watchdog, the Data Protection Commission (DPC), fined WhatsApp approximately €225 million ($267 million) for breaching privacy regulations as the final ruling of an investigation that started back in 2018 seeking to uncover if WhatsApp was transparent enough about its data practices.

The punishment is the largest fine ever issued by the DPC, and also the second-highest GDPR fine ever.

WhatsApp disagrees with the decision, and has already confirmed plans for an appeal, the BBC reported.

"WhatsApp is committed to providing a secure and private service," a company spokesperson told the BBC. "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."

Disagreements over fine height

Under GDPR, a company can be fined up to 4% of its global annual turnover, of €20 million, whichever sum is greater. 

Furthermore, under the same regulation, the data watchdog must submit its decision to other national data authorities and apparently, eight other jurisdictions objected to the ruling, including Germany, France and Italy.

Given that Facebook, WhatsApp's owner, has its European headquarters in Ireland, it was the Irish data watchdog that was in charge of the investigation.

While some disagreed about which articles WhatsApp was in breach of, others don’t think the fine is properly calculated. Other jurisdictions aren’t the only ones objecting to the amount of the fine, the European Data Protection Board also said the Irish DPC should “reassess” its proposed fine and go for a “higher fine amount”.

However, as WhatsApp is now set to appeal the ruling, it will probably be years before the final decision is made. 

Via: BBC

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.