Facebook’s WhatsApp is fined for breaking the E.U.’s data privacy law.

Daily Business Briefing

Sept. 2, 2021, 8:17 a.m. ET

Sept. 2, 2021, 8:17 a.m. ET

Credit…Paulo Nunes dos Santos for The New York Times

Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service was fined nearly $270 million by Irish authorities on Thursday for not being transparent about how it uses data collected from people on the service, in a case that represents a big test of Europe’s ability to enforce its landmark data privacy law.

The 266-page decision is the first major ruling against Facebook under the European Union’s far-reaching General Data Protection Regulation, or G.D.P.R., a three-year-old law that many have criticized for not being properly enforced. Irish regulators said WhatsApp was not clear with users about how data was shared with other Facebook properties like its main social network and Instagram.

WhatsApp said it would appeal the decision, setting up what is expected to be a lengthy legal battle.


The G.D.P.R. was heralded as the world’s most comprehensive data privacy law when it was enacted, and championed as a model for the rest of the world to counter the data-hording practices of Facebook, Google and other internet giants. But the law has resulted in few fines or penalties, and many have said it has not fulfilled its promise.

Regulators in Ireland have been at the center of the debate. Under the law, companies must be regulated by the countries where they have their European headquarters. The European offices of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple and scores of other companies are based in Ireland because of its low corporate tax rates and other benefits.

But that has put tremendous pressure on Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, an underfunded and much-criticized agency that has been tasked with enforcing a novel and complex data-protection law against some of the largest companies in the world.


The fine of 225 million euros, a fraction of Facebook’s annual profit, was the largest issued by Irish regulators against a tech giant under the law; in December, Ireland fined Twitter 450,000 euros related to a data breach. The ruling said WhatsApp did not meet its “transparency obligations” to clearly disclose how data from users would be used by Facebook for its other services.

WhatsApp, which Facebook purchased in 2014, criticized the decision, saying it has updated its privacy policy to be more comprehensive.

“WhatsApp is committed to providing a secure and private service,” Joshua Breckman, a spokesman for WhatsApp, said in a statement. “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.”


Tom Cruise in “Top Gun: Maverick.” Theater owners were counting on the movie to help salvage their year.
Credit…Paramount Pictures, via Associated Press
  • Paramount Pictures on Wednesday scrapped a plan to release a much-anticipated “Top Gun” sequel in theaters in November, citing uncertainty about the willingness of moviegoers to brave the fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus, particularly overseas. “Top Gun: Maverick,” with Tom Cruise returning to the rebel fighter pilot role that made him a superstar, was rescheduled for theatrical release in May.

  • Wells Fargo postponed its broader return to office until Oct. 18 from Oct. 4 for U.S. employees who are working from home, the bank’s chief operating officer Scott Powell wrote in a memo to staff Wednesday. The company will give employees at least 30 days of advance notice if those plans change.

  • Tesla was ordered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the main federal auto safety agency, to hand over a trove of data on its Autopilot driver-assistance system as part of an investigation into Tesla cars crashing into fire trucks or other emergency vehicles parked on roads and highways. In a letter dated Tuesday, the NHTSA told the electric carmaker to produce detailed information on how Autopilot works, how it ensures drivers are paying attention to the road and whether there are any limits on where it can be turned on.

Twenty-five thousand linear feet of two-by-four wooden planks was salvaged from Atlanta film sets and incorporated into the Kendeda Building.
Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

As the green building movement evolves beyond energy efficiency into new areas of sustainability, one promising effort focuses on finding new life for used building materials.

“Just in the past year or two, the conversation around deconstruction and reuse has really catapulted,” said Shawn Wood, a construction waste specialist for the City of Portland, Ore., which he believes is the first municipality in the country to adopt an ordinance requiring certain homes to be deconstructed, rather than demolished.

Deconstruction ordinances can help reduce waste, but more demand for salvaged materials is needed to really drive the market, he said. Interest is ticking up among municipal leaders and even Google as the construction industry tries to reduce its carbon footprint, reports Lisa Prevost for The New York Times.


But there are challenges to scaling up the effort for large commercial projects:

  • Using salvaged materials isn’t necessarily a money saver if the materials have to be refurbished and stored.

  • Older materials don’t necessarily adhere to new building codes and certifications.

  • Structures built in the 1960s or later include more composite materials that are difficult to take apart and reuse.

The obstacles are considerable, but the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design, at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, offers an example of what’s possible.

It was designed to meet the Living Building Challenge, which requires, among many other standards, the incorporation of salvaged materials — specifically, one salvaged item for every 500 square meters of design.


Lifecycle Building Center, an Atlanta store that sells donated materials for reuse, sourced 25,000 linear feet of two-by-fours, all salvaged from television and movie sets from Georgia’s thriving film industry. That was enough, when nailed together with the new boards, to form 125 floor panels.

“We weren’t trying to meet the minimum for salvage — we wanted to find big examples,” said Jimmy Mitchell, a sustainability engineer at Skanska USA, the construction manager for the project.

The headquarters of Cathay Pacific Airways in Hong Kong.
Credit…Jerome Favre/EPA, via Shutterstock

Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s biggest carrier, has begun disciplinary proceedings against flight attendants and pilots who have refused to get Covid-19 vaccines, one of the first examples of an airline enforcing a vaccination mandate.


“We continue to review the future employment of those who are not vaccinated and assess whether they can continue to be employed as aircrew with Cathay Pacific,” a company spokesperson said in an email, following a policy announced in June that all employees must be fully vaccinated by the end of August.

The carrier, which now operates all flights with fully vaccinated aircrew, employs 13,500 people in Hong Kong, according to its latest half-year report.

The spokesperson said that the vast majority of Hong Kong employees — 93 percent — had booked or received their vaccinations as of Thursday, including 99 percent of pilots and 93 percent of cabin crew.


But a number of those who remain, the company said, may risk losing their jobs. The airline said that most of the unvaccinated employees were exempt from its vaccine mandate because they had valid medical reasons or were on long-term leave.

The stringent policy — which other airlines like United Airlines, Air Canada and SWISS also adopted — is harsher than that of many other airlines, which have mostly focused on encouraging their employees to get shots. Delta Air Lines, for example, has said that workers who are not vaccinated by Nov. 1 will have to pay an additional $200 per month to remain on the airline’s health plan. More companies are considering imposing such fees on the unvaccinated, following the airline’s lead.

Apple said it was changing its policy to address an investigation in Japan.
Credit…Chris Delmas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Apple said on Wednesday that it was adjusting its App Store policies to allow certain kinds of applications to do business more directly with their customers.


Under the change, so-called reader apps, which include Netflix and Spotify, will be permitted to include a link within their apps to direct users to set up or manage their accounts on the individual company’s website, rather than through the App Store.

That would let those companies avoid paying the traditional 30 percent fee that Apple charges when people make payments for things like subscriptions on the App Store. Apple had long prevented companies from steering their users to their own websites, which would have deprived it of that 30 percent cut. These reader apps “provide previously purchased content or content subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music and video,” according to the company.

Apple said the change related to an agreement with the Japanese Fair Trade Commission, which had been investigating the tech giant’s App Store policies.


Phil Schiller, the Apple executive who oversees the App Store, said in a statement that the change would “help developers of reader apps make it easier for users to set up and manage their apps and services, while protecting their privacy and maintaining their trust.”

The tweak will take effect early next year. Apple has been under increasing pressure for its App Store rules.

Last week, the company announced a similar change as part of a legal settlement with app makers, and said it would create a $100 million fund for small app developers. Last year, Apple halved the fee that the smallest app developers pay through the App Store.


The company is also waiting on a judge’s decision in its antitrust legal battle against Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, which took Apple to court in May over claims that it abused its power over the App Store. If Epic wins, companies could avoid Apple’s commissions.

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