FACEBOOK has been hit "like a ton of bricks" by the European Union for "incorrect or misleading" information, according to a lawyer with a Taunton-based firm.

The giant social media firm has been fined 110 million euros (£95 million) for giving duff information during its purchase of messaging service WhatsApp in 2014.

The European Commission accused Facebook of saying it could not automatically match user accounts on its own platform and WhatsApp.

But it launched a service that did exactly that just two years later.

Facebook said the errors were unintentional.

Susan Hall, partner with Clarke Willmott LLP, said: “The European Commission has come down like a ton of bricks on Facebook, sending a clear message to social media providers that they are watching them.

“This is a taste of things to come under the new EU General Data Protection Regulations which come into force in May 2018.

"All providers will be subject to these regulations notwithstanding Brexit if they hold or process the personal data of EU residents, so in the light of this extra-territorial flexing of muscles by the EU, social media providers need to remember there’s no place to hide. They must abide by the regulations.

“Even when Brexit occurs, it’s been clearly signalled by the ICO that in order to facilitate working sensibly within the EU after Brexit, any new regime in the UK is likely to remain very close to the GDPR, so it would be sensible to regard this decision as having long-term implications for everyone who handles personal data in the UK or in the EU.”

Relating to the reason for the fine Susan Hall, partner with Clarke Willmott LLP, said: “What Facebook did wrong was to combine two sources of valuable personal data in an unexpected way.

“Individuals using both Facebook and WhatsApp might have preferred to keep their two social media presences separate, but Facebook’s action has forced them into a situation where they’ve had the two forcibly combined.

“As far as commercial interests are concerned, a ‘combining’ strategy like this can increase the value of their business, but as far as the EU is concerned it is an abuse of trust and, in this particular case, contrary to express assurances given at the time of the merger.”