German Antitrust Regulator Cracks Down on Facebook User Data Collection

Zuckerberg to face pressure on taxes in meeting with Macron
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Germany’s antitrust regulator, the Bundeskartellamt, is cracking down on Facebook over its collection of user data. The agency promises, “Facebook will no longer be allowed to force its users to agree to the practically unrestricted collection and assigning of non-Facebook data.”

In a press release, Thursday, the agency announced its prohibition of Facebook “combining user data from different sources.”
According to Business Insider, the regulator demanded that Facebook “change its terms and conditions so that people can explicitly stop it from hoarding data from different sources, including Facebook-owned apps like WhatsApp and Instagram, as well as third-party websites with embedded tools, such as ‘like’ or ‘share’ buttons.”

“The regulator says bundling users’ data together from different sources without explicit consent results in a lack of control,” Business Insider reported. “It also said the extent to which the social network amasses data from elsewhere is an abuse of its dominant market position.”

The President of the Bundeskartellamt, Andreas Mundt, declared in a statement that they “are carrying out what can be seen as an internal divestiture of Facebook’s data.”

“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 user accounts,” Mundt proclaimed. “The combination of data sources substantially contributed to the fact that Facebook was able to build a unique database for each individual user and thus to gain market power. In future, consumers can prevent Facebook from unrestrictedly collecting and using their data.”

“The previous practice of combining all data in a Facebook user account, practically without any restriction, will now be subject to the voluntary consent given by the users. Voluntary consent means that the use of Facebook’s services must not be subject to the users’ consent to their data being collected and combined in this way,” he continued. “If users do not consent, Facebook may not exclude them from its services and must refrain from collecting and merging data from different sources.”

Mundt added that currently, “The only choice the user has is either to accept the comprehensive combination of data or to refrain from using the social network.”

“In such a difficult situation the user’s choice cannot be referred to as voluntary consent,” he expressed. The Bundeskartellamt concluded its press release by noting that its “decision is not yet final,” and “Facebook has one month to appeal the decision to the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court.”

Facebook quickly responded to the press release with a blog post titled, “Why We Disagree With the Bundeskartellamt.”

“While we’ve cooperated with the Bundeskartellamt for nearly three years and will continue our discussions, we disagree with their conclusions and intend to appeal so that people in Germany continue to benefit fully from all our services,” Facebook stated. “The Bundeskartellamt underestimates the fierce competition we face in Germany, misinterprets our compliance with GDPR and undermines the mechanisms European law provides for ensuring consistent data protection standards across the EU.”

“Every day, people interact with companies that connect and use data in similar ways. And all of this should be – and is – a legitimate area of focus for regulators and policymakers around the world. Yet the Bundeskartellamt is trying to implement an unconventional standard for a single company,” Facebook proclaimed. “This is the point we’ll continue to make to the Bundeskartellamt and defend these important arguments in court, so that people and businesses in Germany can continue to benefit from all of our services. We’ll also continue finding ways to improve the controls we offer and safeguard people’s information.”

Charlie Nash is a reporter for Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter @MrNashington, or like his page at Facebook.

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