Top German Court: Facebook Broke Antitrust Rules by Harvesting User Data

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives at the European Parliament, prior to his audition on the data privacy scandal on May 22, 2018 at the European Union headquarters in Brussels. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)
JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

Germany’s top court ruled against social media giant Facebook in an antitrust case related to the company’s collection of user data. The court affirmed the findings of Germany’s antitrust watchdog, which ruled that Facebook abused its market dominance to harvest data from users across multiple platforms.

The New York Times reports that in a move that is likely to see Facebook put under further scrutiny by European governments, Germany’s top court has ruled that Facebook abused its dominance in social media to illegally harvest data about its users.

The ruling by the Federal Court of Justice upholds a decision by Germany’s antitrust watchdog and is seen as a victory for proponents of the regulation of Silicon Valley giants. The court ruled that Facebook broke competition laws by combining data that it collected about users across different platforms including WhatsApp and Instagram as well as other websites and third-party apps.

Facebook in Germany must now alter how it processes data about its users and has been ordered to allow people to block the firm from combining their Facebook data with information from other apps and websites. This decision takes direct issue with Facebook’s core business model which relies on collecting mass amounts of data about users in order to target advertisements to them accurately.

German authorities argued that Facebook unfairly used its dominance to collect data about millions of users of third-party sites that used Facebook’s “like” and “share” buttons and its analytics service, Facebook Pixel.

Regulators decided that consumers faced a false choice, either agree to hand over large amounts of personal data or not use Facebook’s social media services whatsoever. The court stated: “There are neither serious doubts about Facebook’s dominant position on the German social network market nor the fact that Facebook is abusing this dominant position. As the market-dominating network operator, Facebook bears a special responsibility for maintaining still-existing competition in the social networking market.”

Despite the ruling from the Federal Court of Justice, a lower court still must issue a ruling on the matter, a process some antitrust attorneys believe is simply a formality given the ruling from the high court. The lower court could, however, rule in Facebook’s favor which would allow the firm to appeal to again to the federal high court.

Read more at the New York Times here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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