Facebook banned in Germany from pooling user data without consent

Germany clamps down on Facebook’s data tracking

Germany clamps down on Facebook’s data tracking

German antitrust authorities have issued a ruling prohibiting Facebook from combining user data from different sources.

The firm "is abusing this dominant position by making the use of its social network conditional on its being allowed to limitlessly amass every kind of data generated by using third-party websites and merge it with the user's Facebook account", it said in a statement.

The FCO took issue with how Facebook combines data it receives about people who use third-party apps and how it tracks people around the web via its like and share buttons on websites-particularly as some of the people it tracks do not have Facebook accounts.

Citing Facebook's 95 percent market share of daily active social media users in Germany, Mundt noted that the company "must take into account that Facebook users practically can not switch to other social networks".

With nearly 30 million users in Germany - 23 million of them logging in daily - Facebook is a dominant player, the cartel authority said in preliminary findings published in December 2017.

"This even happens when, for example, a user does not press a "Like button" but has called up a site into which such a button is embedded", Mundt said.

If Facebook fails to comply, the cartel office said it could impose fines of up to 10 percent of the company's annual global revenues, which grew by 37 percent to $55.8 billion past year.

Brussels-based anti-trust lawyer Thomas Vinje of Clifford Chance said the decision had potentially far-reaching implications.

"This is a landmark decision", he told Reuters.

Fluffy the cat thawed out after being caught in Montana snow
Her owners think she may have been scared by something and not able to make it back to a safe spot. Fluffy's temperature was so low the staff couldn't even measure it on their thermometer.

"It's limited to Germany but strikes me as exportable and might have a significant impact on Facebook's business model", he said.
This is a battle that many firms have fought in court and lost, he added. It was unhappy with the way the social networking giant combined user data from different sources, often without users being aware of what was happening. "We need to be rigorous in tackling the abuse of power that comes with data". That's because of Facebook's promises that it would keep the companies separate when it bought Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014.

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'.

Facebook has over 95pc of market share of daily active users of social media in Germany, and over 80pc of monthly active users, the authority's research found during a two-year probe into its activity.

Facebook said the cartel office failed to recognize the extent of competition it faced from Google's YouTube or Twitter for users' attention, and also said the regulator was encroaching into areas that should be handled by data protection watchdogs.

"Today data are a decisive factor in competition".

The European Commission said: "We are closely following the work of the Bundeskartellamt both in the framework of the European Competition Network and through direct contacts".

The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new data protection law that entered into force on May 25, 2018.

Part of the expanded rights of data subjects outlined by the GDPR is the right for data subjects to obtain from the data controller confirmation as to whether or not personal data concerning them is being processed, where and for what objective. It would also soon launch a "clear history" feature, it said. Essentially, if Facebook combines its messaging services so that they are different in name and design only, it will be much more hard, if not impossible, to then separate out and spin off Instagram and WhatsApp as separate companies.

"If I understand things correctly, this move would intensify the pooling of data", said Mundt. "We would have to look at this very closely".

Recommended News

We are pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news.
Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper.
Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.