German watchdog rules Facebook "abused its market dominance" to collect user data without consent

Author: Douglas Busvine, Reuters, Published on: 7 February 2019

Germany’s antitrust watchdog ordered a crackdown on Facebook’s data collection practices after ruling the world’s largest social network abused its market dominance to gather information about users without their knowledge or consent.

Facebook said it would appeal the landmark ruling on Thursday by the Federal Cartel Office...

“In future, Facebook will no longer be allowed to force its users to agree to the practically unrestricted collection and assigning of non-Facebook data to their Facebook accounts,” Cartel Office Chief Andreas Mundt said.

The findings follow fierce scrutiny of Facebook over a series of privacy lapses, including the leak of data on tens of millions of Facebook users, as well as the extensive use of targeted ads by foreign powers seeking to influence elections in the United States...

The cartel office objected in particular to how Facebook acquires data on people from third-party apps - including its own WhatsApp and Instagram services - and its online tracking of people who aren’t even members...

The ruling does not yet have legal force...

Facebook said [...] “The Bundeskartellamt underestimates the fierce competition we face in Germany, misinterprets our compliance with the GDPR, and threatens the mechanism European law provides for ensuring consistent data protection standards across the EU.” ...

It also faults the antitrust body for encroaching in areas properly dealt with by data protection regulators under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a broad privacy regime that entered force last May... [also refers to Twitter, Youtube]

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Related companies: Alphabet Facebook Instagram (part of Facebook) Twitter Whatsapp (part of Facebook) YouTube (part of Alphabet)