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Ireland fines WhatsApp 5.5M euros for EU privacy breach

LONDON (AP) — Ireland fined WhatsApp on Thursday for breaching strict European Union privacy rules by forcing users to consent to allow their personal data to be used to provide “service improvements and security.”

The Data Protection Commission issued a 5.5 million euro ($5.9 million) penalty in the case, which has exposed divisions with regulators in other EU countries over regulating the chat app’s parent Meta.

In a related decision earlier this month, the Irish watchdog hit Meta with a total of $390 million in fines for privacy violations involving Facebook and Instagram.

All three cases date back to May 2018, when stringent EU privacy regulations took force.

The commission, which is Meta’s lead European privacy regulator because the company’s regional headquarters is in Dublin, originally sided with the Silicon Valley giant. But a slew of other EU data protection watchdogs objected to its draft decisions and the Irish watchdog was forced to overturn them and issue stiffer punishments.

In its final decision on the WhatsApp case, the commission also ordered the company to bring its data processing operations into compliance with EU privacy rules within six months.

WhatsApp said it disagreed with the decision and plans to appeal.

“We strongly believe that the way the service operates is both technically and legally compliant,” it said in a statement.