Germany imposes limits on Facebook data collection

Mae Love
February 9, 2019

Germany's antitrust agency is hitting Facebook with "far-reaching restrictions" on the social media network's practice of merging its users' data that was gleaned from WhatsApp, Instagram and millions of third-party websites and apps.

If the ruling is upheld, Facebook will be required to allow users to specifically approve data collected from other Facebook-owned sources and third-party websites assigned to their accounts.

Actually, Facebook collects from all over the internet including third-party apps and attaches it to the user's account to make a clear picture about them to sell ads.

"The combination of data sources substantially contributed to the fact that Facebook was able to build a unique database for each individual user and thus to gain market power", he added.

The Cartel Office objected to the world's largest social media network, claiming that it abused its market power to gather information without user consent.

The finding by the federal cartel office in Bonn is one of the strongest verdicts issued against Facebook by a national regulator and stung the firm into launching a swift challenge through the German courts.

While we've cooperated with the [German FCO] for almost three years, and will continue our discussions, we disagree with their conclusions and intend to appeal so that people in Germany continue to benefit fully from all our services.

Germany has announced a clampdown on Facebook's "unrestricted" gathering of personal data from other websites. To come to this conclusion the FCO cooperated closely with data protection authorities.

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In ruling that Facebook was a "dominant company", the Cartel Office said it was subject to "special obligations under competition law" and 'must take into account that Facebook users practically can not switch to other social networks'.

Facebook has one month to appeal the Bundeskartellamt decision. Tellingly, the company didn't mention how numerous 40 percent of non-Facebook users had installed Instagram or WhatsApp and glossed over the ubiquity of its "like" and "share" buttons entirely.

At the time, Facebook told AFP that the initial report "paints an inaccurate picture" of the firm, stressing that Facebook was not a dominant company and that it complied with European data protection laws. Finally, the FCO also concluded that the data allows Facebook to improve its position in targeted advertising services to the disadvantage of customers and competitors in the advertising space. The GDPR also harmonises data protection laws across Europe, so everyone lives by the same rules of the road and regulators can consistently apply the law from country to country.

If the German ruling stands, Facebook's business model, which is largely predicated on advertising, will need to be seriously amended.

Facebook said German authorities underestimated the competition Facebook has in Germany from YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and others.

In a statement issued after the ruling, Facebook said its data use is in compliance with GDPR and is meant to 'protect people's safety and security'.

Considering the control of Facebook on various social media indicative of a process of monopolization: users dedicated to social networks do not have substantially alternatives to migrate if they disagree with the policies on the use of digital platform data of the United States company. However, assigning the data to Facebook user accounts will only be possible subject to the users' voluntary consent.

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