Zuckerberg, a paella, and the mighty EU questionnaires that would stop Whatsapp acquisition by Facebook?

facebook whatsapp logo

It was the end of February and we were walking around the Ramblas in Barcelona, at the eve of Mobile World Congress 2014, where the Sting was the only Brussels media that made it to Catalunya. Seduced by the smell of paella and cinnamon, there was one major thing that all the people wearing the magic MWC badge were whispering about last February. And that was nothing else but the major $19 billion acquisition of Whatsapp by Facebook, that happened only one week before the world’s biggest mobile conference.

I will never forget Mark Zuckerberg’s answer to a question by someone from the public at Fira Barcelona, who asked him: “what is next for you now after the Whatsapp deal?” Mark then replied that after the completion of a $19 billion deal, he rather needs a break. Well, this poor genius definitely deserves that and it seems that it was granted to him in his home country when a couple of months after Barcelona, last April, Mrs Jessica Rich, the director of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection, ‘approved’ this historic acquisition of the two companies that accommodate together over one billion users. She only pointed how important it is that data privacy rules are rigid in this new ‘company’, as it is in Facebook. “If the acquisition is completed and WhatsApp fails to honor these promises, both companies could be in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act and, potentially, the FTC’s order against Facebook,” she said.

While Mark was planning his break after this OK by his mother market, Brussels gave him a generous NOK that will certainly put him and his good friend now Jan Koum, founder of Whatsapp, into trouble. So, Facebook, knowing well how tricky it is to do business in the Old Continent, risking disapproval by 28 markets, it decided to ask the EU for a central approval of the Whatsapp acquisition. This happened already last May.

According to a report published this week by The Wall Street Journal, though, the DG Competition has sent out questionnaires to companies that ‘might’ be threatened by this social media deal, asking them how and why they believe this acquisition is harming the market. You see, many Telcos in Europe have been expressing since February their disfavor over this grand deal. Not without a reason of course. Whatsapp, the social app that is using the network of the operator to send messages, files and call free of charge has been a pain in the brain on its own. Then one can imagine why when the operators found out about the marriage of two social networks with 500 million users and 1 billion users respectively, which allow ‘freeloaders’ to communicate without paying ‘royalties’ to the operator, completely freaked out.

And it is true that lobbying in Brussels is worth every euro. All this Telco lobbying bore fruits apparently and now the acquisition will be scrutinized. Sources say that it will not only be checked whether it threatens the market by creating a sort of monopoly of ‘free social interaction’ that will steal revenue from Vodafone and the peer. For the first time in an antitrust case in Europe data privacy will be investigated as well. Wow!

Undeniably this is a great step forward. But how realistic is it? And let’s accept that Whatsapp is relatively new in the business and might have data privacy loopholes. But at least technically speaking it is rather unlikely for Facebook to be so much vulnerable. The social media giant is considered an old fox already in the market and has learned so much from the mistakes and bad experiences of the past. It is highly unlikely that the bureaucrat of the Berlaymont will yell EUREKA on this one, like a modern Archimedes. But, all in all, if it is for the sacred value of data privacy, by any means keep looking guys!

Another point of attention here is whether it is practically possible that this deal is approved in the US market and not in the EU. In a globalized economy like the one we are living can you really stop a butterfly from flying across the Atlantic? And even if you can, can you stop Facebook from accessing Whatsapp European user information now? It is nice to have good antitrust cases to dig it up and keep the market sustainable but in markets like this, the bureaucrat with the thick glasses has first to grasp things for which there is no literature produced yet. Things that were born in a couple of brilliant minds as pieces of code, who also happen to be billionaires to implement them, like our friend Mark here.

All in all, we will follow this antitrust case very closely, but we want it this time to be something more than a result of expensive and heavy Telco lobbying. We would like to have the people at the Commission to comprehend and predict market and data privacy dangers in these high-tech newborn and unmapped markets, rather than sending out open type questionnaires for lobbyists to answer…

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Somalia advancing towards ‘inclusive and peaceful future’ for women, deputy UN chief

Confronting antimicrobial resistance of animal origin

This is how we can feed the planet while saving the ocean

Huawei answers allegations about its selling prices

What makes America the world’s most competitive economy?

Myanmar: Conflict resolution at ‘total standstill’, military commanders must answer for crimes against humanity

To beat hunger and combat climate change, world must ‘scale-up’ soil health – UN

New UN-Syrian Action Plan signals an ‘important day’ for child protection, says UN envoy

How the tech world could make nonprofits a more powerful force

This is the world’s greenest football club – and you’ve probably never even heard of it

Draghi: ECB to flood Eurozone and the world with more zero cost money; risk of drowning in cash

Global Citizen-Volunteer Internships

We need a reskilling revolution. Here’s how to make it happen

European Agenda on Migration: Still fragile situation gives no cause for complacency

It’s not enough to respond to crises. We need to take action before they happen

A third of world’s out-of-school youth live in conflict, disaster-affected countries: UNICEF report

MWC 2016 Live: Industrial world prepares to reap digital benefits

State aid: Commission invites comments on simplified rules for State aid combined with EU support

Why the ECB suddenly decided to flood banks with money?

Commission launches debate on a gradual transition to more efficient and democratic decision-making in EU tax policy

Samsung’s profits fall as cheaper smartphones gain market share

Chart of the day: This is why we need to protect nature’s pollinators

Children are still dying in Yemen war, despite partial ceasefire, says UNICEF chief

Fresh airstrikes kill dozens in conflict-ravaged Syria

Tsipras bewildered with Berlin’s humiliating demands; ECB expects political sign to refinance the Greek banks

The latest emoji are more inclusive – but who approves them?

International co-operation vital to improve integration of refugees

On International Youth Day the European Youth Forum calls for true youth participation

Brexit talks started with a London handicap and Brussels’ sternness

Migrants: ‘A powerful driver’ of economic growth, ‘dynamism and understanding’

Western Sahara: a ‘peaceful solution’ to conflict is possible, says UN envoy

Remarks by President Juncker at the joint press conference with President Tusk ahead of the G20 Summit

From glass ceiling to glass cliff: women are not a leadership quick-fix

EU mobilises further €15.2 million humanitarian support for food safety, epidemics preparedness and support to people in conflict areas in Latin America and Caribbean

EU Commission: The banks are not obliged to finance the real economy

The world’s coastal cities are going under. Here’s how some are fighting back

100 years on, UN labour agency mission focussed on growing inequality, says Director-General

The first new university in the UK for 40 years is taking a very different approach to education

Mass-graves found of at least 535 killed during ‘organized and planned’ inter-communal attacks in western DR Congo

Facebook has built an AI-based tool that fixes the social network when it crashes

Sustainable development funding is broken. Here’s how to fix it

Guterres underscores UN role in achieving a free, secure Internet

World Bank President steps down, Chief Executive assumes temporary role

An Eastern Wind

Rohingya emergency one year on: UN says thousands of lives saved, but challenges remain

Somalis ‘will not be deterred’ by Friday’s terror attacks – UN chief

LGBT community in Chechnya faces ‘new wave of persecution’: UN human rights experts

Cybersecurity should be a source of hope, not fear. Here are 5 reasons why

How voice technology will change your life

Vienna has the world’s best quality of living

EU Justice Scoreboard 2018: justice systems’ key role in upholding the rule of law and EU values

What do toilets have to do with climate change?

Mental health and suicide prevention: why focus on primary care

Syria: ‘Violence, displacement’ and cold kill 11 infants ‘in the past two days’

Main results of Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) – 18-19/10/2018

If on a summer’s night: is UK businesses’ “new deal” the only key to the “best of all worlds”?

Will CETA be implemented after eight long years or it will be vetoed by the EU citizen?

Europe and UN form bulwark against ‘might makes right’ worldview, EU foreign affairs chief tells Security Council

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: The health of capitalism won’t be the only worry for those who head for Davos

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s