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Germany Punishing Facebook for Social Media Dominance

09 Февраля 2019

In particular, the German court was scathing of Facebook's pooling of people's data on third-party applications, like WhatsApp and Instagram, coupled with its online-tracking mechanisms of non-members through "likes" and 'shares'.

If the ruling is upheld, Facebook will be required to allow users to specifically approve data collected from other Facebook-owned sources and third-party websites assigned to their accounts.

Collecting data from third-party websites and assigning it to Facebook would be allowed only if users give their voluntary consent.

Mr Mundt argues that Facebook was able to build a "unique database" for each individual users and gain market power.

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

If users do not agree, the data 'must remain with the respective service and can not be processed in combination with Facebook data, ' they said.

Federal Cartel Office (FCO), has granted Facebook one month time to act upon it.

"While we've cooperated with the Bundeskartellamt for almost 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", Yvonne Cunnane and Nikhil Shanbhag, Facebook's head of data protection in Ireland and director-associate general counsel, said in an official statement.

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Back in 2016, Facebook was told to stop collecting WhatsApp data from users and delete all the information it has already collected, due to the fact proper consent had not been obtained.

Germany has announced a clampdown on Facebook's "unrestricted" gathering of personal data from other websites.

'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'. Along the way, Facebook track which sites and apps its users visit; where they shop and what they like, among other data.

Facebook released a blog post Thursday directly refuting the order, entitled "Why We Disagree With the Bundeskartellamt" (the name of the agency).

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. "Based on its dominant position, Facebook can use them to optimise its own service and tie more users to its network".

This decision, despite being limited to Germany, will probably also influence the regulatory bodies of other European Union states, encouraging them to act in the same way. Where consent is not given, the data must remain with the respective service and can not be processed in combination with Facebook data.

This case is set to raise many questions in the competition community but certainly the most striking aspect of the decision is that it is entirely based on an alleged infringement of European data protection rules enshrined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The German regulator also noted that Google+ would be shutting down in April of 2019 and that Facebook's other competitors like Snapchat, YouTube, and Twitter only offer "parts of the services" that Facebook does. Then, according to the BBC, the government body's order will become law, and Facebook will be compelled to make changes.

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Germany Punishing Facebook for Social Media Dominance