German cartel watchdog bites Facebook2 min read


Germany’s competition authority, the Bundeskartellamt or Federal Cartel Office (FCO), has told Facebook it can only continue gathering so much data about users from beyond its app and website if it has the individuals’ consent.

The watchdog has carried out a probe into Facebook following concerns that members were unaware of the extent of the social network’s activities. It covered data gathered from third-party sources as well as via Facebook’s other apps, including Instagram. The FCO has ruled that:

  • Facebook’s various services can continue to collect data, but they cannot combine it with the user’s main Facebook account unless the member gives their voluntary consent;
  • collecting data from third-party websites and assigning it to a Facebook user’s account is likewise only allowed if that member has given the firm permission.

The watchdog added that an “obligatory tick on the box” to agree to all the company’s terms was not a sufficient basis for “such intensive data processing”.

The ruling only applies to the firm’s activities in Germany, but it is likely to influence other regulators. UK-based campaign group Privacy International has said that if the German ruling holds, Facebook should extend the same rights to its other users.

The social network claims the FCO has exceeded its official remit by pursuing a data privacy matter that, according to Facebook, falls under the remit of another regulator. In a blog, Facebook added that the FCO had overlooked steps it had already taken to be compliant with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force last year.

It has one month to challenge the ruling before it becomes legally effective. If the order is upheld, Facebook must develop technical solutions to ensure it complies within four months.

Find out more via the link. The FCO’s press release is also available.

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