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

Andreas Mundt President of the Federal Cartel Office speaks during a press conference on the investigation by the German competition authorities for abuse of a dominant position by Facebook in Bonn

Germany's Federal Competition Office (FCO) said Thursday it would impose new limits on how Facebook collects data from subsidiaries Whatsapp and Instagram, as well as third-party websites with embedded Facebook features such as "Like" buttons.

If users do not agree, the data 'must remain with the respective service and can not be processed in combination with Facebook data, ' they said.

The FCO says users are obliged to accept Facebook's terms of use as a whole, losing control over the use of their personal data.

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.

"Using information across our services also helps us protect people's safety and security, including, for example, identifying abusive behavior and disabling accounts tied to terrorism, child exploitation and election interference across both Facebook and Instagram", said Facebook. The company could be subject to fines of 10% of its total annual revenue (estimated at US$55.8 billion at the time of writing) if it continues the practices in question.

The Bundeskartellamt decision "goes to the heart of Facebook's business model: excessive data accumulation to maximize its advertising revenue", said Agustin Reyna of the European consumer group BEUC.

It comes after global backlash against Facebook was fuelled by last year's Cambridge Analytica scandal. Where consent is not given, the data must remain with the respective service and can not be processed in combination with Facebook data...

The ruling could not only limit the value the company extracts from its own users' information but also restrict its ability to track people without a Facebook account, who now have no way of consenting to data collection.

Antitrust lawyer Thomas Vinje, a partner at Clifford Chance in Brussels, said the Cartel Office ruling had potentially far-reaching implications.

A man shows the logo of social network Facebook displayed on a smartphone

"German authorities called it an abuse of Facebook's market dominance and ordered the social network to restrict the practice and stop it completely within a year", NPR's Daniel Estrin reports for the Newscast unit from Berlin.

Tech pundits said Germany's decision will be huge hit to Facebook.

They said: 'We face fierce competition in Germany, yet the [regulator] finds it irrelevant that our apps compete directly with YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and others.

The Federal Cartel Office, or Bundeskartellamt said the firm was exploiting its position as a dominant social media company in violation of European regulations.

A German court has ruled that Facebook will need to cut down on collecting user data across different platforms unless customers have given explicit consent.

The Bundeskartellamt has overlooked how Facebook actually processes data and the steps we take to comply with the GDPR.

Although it is now common knowledge platforms such as Facebook sell "you" to advertisers to fuel the spreadsheets, Bundeskartellamt believes the firm should obtain consent from the user should it want to use additional information to create a more detailed user profile.

Sandra Wachter, a lawyer and Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, earlier said (to WIRED) that Facebook's plan to merge the platforms is bound to trigger privacy concerns.

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