Published: Sun, February 10, 2019
Business | By Eloise Houston

German minister welcomes cartel office's clampdown on Facebook data collection

German minister welcomes cartel office's clampdown on Facebook data collection

"The GDPR specifically empowers data protection regulators - not competition authorities - to determine whether companies are living up to their responsibilities", Facebook writes.

The regulator said many people were not aware of how websites with a "Like" button could be used to gather data linked to a Facebook account.

Under the order, Facebook can't tie membership on the platform to people agreeing to unlimited data tracking. Additionally, Germany's justice minister, Katarina Barley, told Reuters that the company "had reached far beyond its platform to collect user data".

Of course, Facebook has access to all of the data that users have posted.

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'.

The Federal Cartel Office ruled that Facebook will be able to continue gathering user data with various services and applications, but none of that data can be combined under a single account without the user's voluntary consent.

The German regulation body that monitors competition has ordered Facebook to stop some of its core activities, unless it gets more explicit user consent (via the BBC).

Rather than the FCO, the Irish Data Protection Commission should be overseeing Facebook's use of data as the company's European HQ is based in Dublin, the social network said. "And Facebook exploits this mercilessly - 'Give me your data or you're an outsider.' That's clearly an abuse of a dominant market position".

"We face fierce competition in Germany, yet the Bundeskartellamt finds it irrelevant that our apps compete directly with YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and others", Facebook said in its statement.

The regulator declared Facebook a monopoly due to the company owning over 95 percent of the social media market in Germany.

The German authorities found that the transfer of customer data creates targeted and unique advertisements on their Facebook pages.

In its order, the Cartel Office said it would only be possible to assign data from WhatsApp or Instagram to Facebook subject to the voluntary consent of users.

Although Facebook hasn't given many details on its plans to integrate messaging, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said recently that the idea is to help users message one another more easily, without having to worry about who's on which service.

Over the past several months, Facebook has been embroiled in a number of scandals related to data breach and faced accusations of selling user data, which the company itself has denied. In addition to inviting community group leaders to the summit, Facebook for the first time this year also invited leaders of local business and nonprofit groups. Online privacy is a grave concern in Germany as they lead the global charge against Facebook. The FCO explicitly states that users expect platforms to combine their data to some extent, and this is an essential component of social networks' business models.

It is worth to mention that in the last June, 2.5 billion people used at least one of Facebook apps: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Messenger. "Facebook's registration process encouraged participants to 'set it and forget it, ' warning that if a participant disconnected from the monitoring for more than 10 minutes for a few days that they could be disqualified".

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