Published: Sat, February 09, 2019
Economy | By

Facebook will appeal German data-use ruling

Facebook will appeal German data-use ruling

The German antitrust authority has banned Facebook from combining user data across its apps and third-party sites without users' consent, accusing the company of coercively taking advantage of its "market dominance".

Mr Mundt said the Cartel Office's view that the lack of any alternative to Facebook and the unequal relationship between it and consumers over the handling of their data qualified as antitrust issues - a view that has been upheld in the German Federal Court.

"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.

Regardless of whether the German ruling - which would only apply in Germany - sticks, Vernick said the European data protection commission is already looking closely at Facebook's integration plans and the data it collects across all its services and beyond.

The FCO's justification for the case is that it believes Facebook abused its market dominance to gather the data.

Recently, reports that Facebook was planning to bring user data from its acquisitions WhatsApp and Instagram into much closer conjunction with that of its own Messenger had emerged.

The EU introduced its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May past year, intensifying regulators' focus on Facebook.

Collecting data from third party websites and assigning them to a Facebook user account will also only be possible if users give their voluntary consent.

'On the one hand there is a service provided to users free of charge, ' Cartel Office president Andreas Mundt said.

Facebook did that, Mundt's office said, by compiling data from its website, apps and Facebook-owned services - along with seemingly any website that has Facebook's "Like" or "Share" buttons, or a Facebook login box built into their pages.

'On the other hand, the attractiveness and value of the advertising spaces increase with the amount and detail of user data.

The landmark ruling also means that users who refuse permission for their data to be merged will not be shut out of Facebook services as a result.

Facebook said that with its ruling, the Cartel Office underestimates the competition Facebook has in Germany from YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and others in calling it a "dominant company", misinterprets Facebook's compliance with regulations, and undermines mechanisms provided for in European law ensuring consistent data protection standards.

'The Bundeskartellamt has overlooked how Facebook actually processes data and the steps we take to comply with the GDPR, ' Facebook said on Thursday.

And, it protects the user's safety, the firm claims. "Yet the Bundeskartellamt's decision misapplies German competition law to set different rules that apply to only one company", Facebook said in its blog.

'The only choice the user has is either to accept the comprehensive combination of data or to refrain from using the social network, ' it said in its judgment.

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.

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